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Govt Continues National's Youth Crime Strategy

26 April 2002

The youth offending strategy released by the Government today will not do anything to reduce increasing youth crime, National Justice Spokesperson Wayne Mapp said today.

"Most of the strategy is a continuation of themes National had developed but this Government stalled. I am pleased the Government has now recognised the value of programmes like Strengthening Families (renamed Interagency Collaborative Agreement by Steve Maharey) and Family Start and is now promoting them after holding their funding.

"The report says that many youth offenders have cannabis abuse problems, but at the same time this Government is championing the decriminalisation of cannabis. Decriminalisation of cannabis sends the wrong message to youth.

"This strategy won't crack down on youth crime when it has the Youth Affairs Ministry developing a Youth Services Corps for youth offenders. Dealing with serious youth offenders is a specialist area, and we question whether a Ministry, who's role it is to develop policy, is the right organisation to be doing this. "The report also notes large gaps in appropriate mental health, and drug and alcohol treatment services for youth. I hope the Government does come up with appropriate programmes to fill these gaps, particularly given that it closed one of the more effective residential care facilities in the country, at Hanmer Springs.

"The big problems with youth crime are that offenders are getting younger, and violent and drug offences are on the increase. Answers to my written Parliamentary Questions show that this includes many youths under 14 years old.

"National believes the age of criminal responsibility should be reduced to 12 years, giving the Youth Court jurisdiction for 12 to 17 year olds. It is only once these youths recognise and acknowledge that their offending is wrong that they can make progress in improving their behaviour," Dr Mapp said.

Ends

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