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Family group conferences fail too many

Tony Ryall MP

National Law & Order spokesman

6 July 2004

Family group conferences fail too many

Family group conferences are not working for too many young offenders, with latest figures showing some are attending up to 16 meetings with little or no result.

National's Law and Order spokesman, Tony Ryall, has released figures from Associate Social Development Minister Ruth Dyson to back up National's call for tougher treatment of young criminals.

Leader Don Brash said at the weekend that one of the first steps in tackling crime was early intervention with at-risk young people, and that "a degree of compassion" was needed because most offended at some stage while they were growing up and most did not offend seriously.

He said National would toughen up on habitual young offenders by reducing the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12. Young criminals who had not mended their way after two family group conferences would be dealt with by the Youth Court.

The family group conference figures show that one offender has been to 16 conferences, two have been to 15, and nearly 100 have been to between 8 and 14 since 1999. The number of conferences has risen from 6094 in 2002 to 7557 in the 11 months to May this year.

Mr Ryall says the family group conference system does not seem to work for hardcore, repeat offenders.

"We support the system for young people who do not usually get into trouble with the law, but there is limited value in using them repeatedly for those who are constantly in trouble.

"It is this latter group that we want to go before the Youth Court sooner so we can do more to turn them away from a life of crime.

"National will give the Youth Court new powers to deal with these young people and I think that will be a much more effective way of saving them from the prison system," Mr Ryall says.


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