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Youth Crime Strategy Launched

26 April 2002

The Government today released a wide-ranging strategy for dealing with youth crime.

The strategy is based on the report of a Ministerial Taskforce on youth offending, chaired by Chief District Court Judge, David Carruthers.

Key measures:

„h The creation of local youth offending teams to ensure a properly integrated and coordinated response to youth offenders across government agencies

„h New programmes targeted at high risk serious young offenders, inadequately catered for under the current youth justice system

„h Programmes aimed at early intervention for children and youth at risk, aimed at tackling the causes of offending

„h Tackling deficiencies in family group conferences

„h A youth crime database to enable the system to track young offenders and to enable properly informed policy responses

Releasing the strategy, the Ministers of Justice, Social Welfare and Corrections said the policy package built on the strengths of the existing system while addressing its deficiencies.

¡§An effective response to youth offending is essential to prevent youth offenders going on to a life of adult crime.

¡§Early intervention to deal with the causes of offending is more effective than trying to break entrenched patterns of offending later in life,¡¨ the Ministers said.

1. A Coordinated and Effective Response to Youth Offending

The taskforce found that a plethora of agencies involved in youth justice often operated independently of each other with inadequate coordination.

This increased the risk of duplication and of gaps in the systems. Local Youth Offending Teams, drawing together personnel from Child Youth and Family, Police, education and Health will be established by the end of the year to provide coordinated service delivered at a local level.

This integrated approach will be mirrored at a national level by a senior officials and ministerial group.

The new system will include a holistic approach to dealing with factors contributing to offending, joint training and adopting best practice policies to address problems identified in current programme delivery.

2. Dealing with High Risk Serious Young Offenders

The taskforce identified a gap in effective response to serious young offenders between adult sanctions and procedures and programmes designed for less serious offending in the Youth Court.

The new policy provides for
i. A pilot residential programme for high-risk serious young offenders.

This will target recidivist offenders providing them with intensive rehabilitation programmes in a secure environment.

It will replace failed programmes such as Corrective Training.

Details will be announced on Sunday.

ii. Day Reporting Centres

These will target the next level of offenders with individualised programmes which are intensive and relatively long-term.

The centres, administered by Corrections and CYF, will focus on meeting educational and vocational needs.

Two centres catering for approximately 130 offenders per year will be established initially, with $12 million over four years provided for in Budget 2002.

iii. Youth Drug Courts

A pilot programme has been initiated in Christchurch, using the judicial process to refer young offenders with serious drug and alcohol problems to a treatment plan under intensive judicial supervision. A Youth Drug Court Team involving a health clinician, special education services, police, CYF and a youth advocate ensure an holistic and integrated approach and that available drug and alcohol services are targeted at the highest risk youth requiring treatment.

3. Intervention Programmes for Children and Youth at Risk

A range of programmes dealing both with at-risk families with very young children and children and young persons who have offended or are at risk of offending have been developed in recent years and are being evaluated. $93 million over four years for these programmes was provided in budget 2000 /01.

Further additions to those programmes will be provided for in budget 2002 /03.

In education, there will be specific focus on reviewing truancy services, an initiative for reduction of suspensions which in targeted areas has for example led to a 26 per cent reduction in Maori suspensions, and alternative education.

In health, there will be a focus on alcohol and drug abuse treatment under the blueprint for mental health services. The Budget 2000 /01 significantly increased spending by youth mental health services.

4. Improving the Effectiveness of Family Group Conferences

The Taskforce endorsed family group conferences as an effective and internationally renowned mechanism for dealing with serious young offenders .

There are however inadequacies in practice, particularly in effectively implementing the plans agreed to at those conferences.

CYF have agreed with recommendations for better assessments of young offenders prior to FGC including health and education reports.

It is also implementing changes to ensure timely hearings and effective monitoring and follow up to ensure FGC recommendations are implemented.

The problem of uneven workloads and inadequate training is being addressed.

A new structure to support and monitor the work of Youth Justice Coordinators has been established, and joint training programmes are being put in place for Coordinators and Police Youth Aid Officers.

5. A Coherent Youth Crime Information data base

Current data on youth offending is inconsistent and unreliable.

This means the system cannot properly track trends in youth offending or the offending history of particular young offenders. There is a lack of comprehensive data on which to base policy responses.

Under the data warehouse initiative funded in last year¡¦s budget a youth justice database will be established, integrating data collected by key youth agencies.

A screening and assessment mechanism for interventions is also being developed and further research and evaluation projects are being commissioned into the effectiveness of different youth justice interventions.

Ministers said that the new strategy would be complemented later by other measures under consideration including a review of the age of criminal liability and the legislative changes recommended by the Taskforce.

¡§The new strategy focuses on the area where the next generation offenders will otherwise come from. It will ensure a significantly better and more effective response to offending by young people¡¨, the Ministers said.

NB: The Youth Offending Strategy and the Report of the Ministerial Taskforce on Youth Offending will be posted on the justice website at www.justice.govt.nz

Ends

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