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Youngest Murder Accused to Face Trial

Youngest Murder Accused to Face Trial

Sunday 21 Jul 2002

The twelve-year-old boy who tomorrow will face trial for murder was allowed to drop out of school for two years under Labour, ACT Education Spokesman MP Donna Awatere Huata revealed today.

"I don't want to pass judgement on this case. I do want to speak out against the successive education ministers who have done nothing to keep kids in school.

"The appearance in court of the youngest person accused of murder in New Zealand is shameful for the politicians who have created the perfect conditions for this to occur.

"The twelve-year-old boy did not attend a primary or intermediate school for two whole years before coming in front of the court. He was chucked into the Correspondence system for part of that time - a resource that stretched schools are forced to rely on more and more for children who are completely unsuitable for it. The Correspondence system is designed to cater for kids who live in the wop-wops, not to hide long-term truants and the children that under-resourced schools can't cope with.

"There are hundreds more children who won't attend a day of school this week - the next time we see these children will be in court. The long-term truancy service is hunting for 1,000 more children than five years ago. It is simple for a child as young as seven to drop out of one school and never enrol in another.

"Despite his promises in Opposition in 1999, Education Minister Trevor Mallard hasn't introduced a database to monitor enrolments and find long-term truants. Answers to my parliamentary questions show he hasn't even requested any advice on the subject.

"Helen Clark's last credit card said Labour would `crack down on youth crime'. Labour did nothing until two months ago, when they produced a report that perpetuates the rotten status quo. Violent youth crime has doubled in the past ten years.

"ACT's education and crime policies are designed to avoid having twelve-year-olds appear in court charged with murder. School Choice means new schools will be able to set up specifically to care for the children who fall through the gaps - we won't have to rely on the unsuitable Correspondence system. Devolved funding will give every school more flexibility and resources to cope. We will introduce a central database to find the children who fall through the gaps - a simple and effective solution which has worked abroad.

"ACT calls for a zero tolerance approach to crime. That means eliminating the failed theories behind our youth justice system and sending a clear message to youth offenders while their crimes are still at the `entry level'," Mrs Awatere Huata said.

ENDS


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