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Improved youth justice legislation introduced

Improved youth justice legislation introduced

New legislation improving New Zealand's youth justice system was introduced to Parliament this afternoon.

The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Amendment Bill (No 4) gives effect to government's 2002 Youth Offending Strategy. It also enables the Ministry of Social Development to assume responsibility for leading and coordinating family and community services, in line with the recommendations of the 2003 baseline review of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services.

Acting Social Development and Employment Minister Ruth Dyson said the Bill ensures a stronger focus reducing reoffending, together with a recognition of the rights of victims of crime commited by young people.

"The provisions of this Bill provide incremental, rather than revolutionary, change to our exisiting youth justice system. While there is widespread agreement amongst the key agencies and practitioners that our youth justice framework is fundamentally sound, both they and New Zealanders have some concerns about youth offending."

The Bill:

· For the first time identifies preventing children and young people from developing patterns of offending that persist into adulthood as a fundamental principal of our youth justice system

· Explicitly recognises victims rights in the youth justice system, bringing it into line with changes introduced through the 2002 Victims Rights and Sentencing acts. Victims, or their representatives, will now have the right to attend Youth Court hearings as well as Family Group Conferences

· Makes changes to arrest, bail and remand conditions for young people. Police will be given the power to get young people to comply with bail conditions and to remand them in Child, Youth and Family custody if they seriously breach those conditions

· Extends, until 30 June 2008, the ability of the Youth Court to remand a young person to a penal institution under certain circumstances. This extra time is needed to enable the Department to build new residential facilities to house these young people, and

· Improves the operation and enforcement of Youth Court orders and Family Group Conferences.

"Improvements are also made to the care and protection provisions of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act. In particular, the Bill will enable more than one department to have responsibility for the administration of the Act. This gives effect to the government's decision to establish a Family and Community Services function within the Ministry of Social Development in line with recommendations of the baseline review of Child, Youth and Family Services," Ruth Dyson said.


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