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National youth crime policy shallow, confused


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Media Statement

5 June 2002

National youth crime policy shallow, confused

National’s youth crime policy lacks substance and strategic direction and calls for powers already available to the Family and Youth Courts for dealing with young offenders, says Justice Minister Phil Goff.

“The age of criminal responsibility in New Zealand under the Crimes Act is 10 years. Young people can be held to account for their actions from that age. However, other than for murder and manslaughter, they cannot be prosecuted or placed in prison before the age of 14 years.

“At present those aged 10-13 years can appear before the Family Court. The Family Court has similar powers to the Youth Court which deals with offenders aged 14-16 years. Young offenders can also be brought before Family Group Conferences to deal with their offending and put in place a plan of action in response to it.

“From age 10, children who present a risk to themselves or to the community can be placed in secure confinement in a CYF residence. Under the age of 14, however, they cannot be placed in an adult prison and few would suggest they should be.

“The Family Group Conference process, or Family or Youth Courts can also require a young offender to be subject to a curfew, attend a drug or alcohol abuse programme or other form of rehabilitation.

“I am currently reviewing the powers of the Family and Youth Courts to ensure they can do all that is necessary to address the child or young person’s offending.

“I do not however intend to enter an election year auction to prove who is toughest at putting children before adult courts or in prison. This would not serve the public good or be effective in dealing with young offenders.

“The Youth Offending Strategy recently released by the Government was welcomed by police, the judiciary, the private sector and the public as a well thought out and effective response to offending by young people.

“It addresses the real problems such as an absence of effective programmes for serious young offenders, drug and alcohol abuse as a cause of offending, lack of follow-up in Family Group Conferences, lack of data on youth offending and lack of coordination in response by government agencies to offending.

“This strategy and the $93 million invested in youth programmes by the 2000/01 Budget will produce real results unlike the slogans and confused directions which mark the National Party’s new ‘policy’ “, Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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