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Teen crims laughing at talk-fest conferences

Monday, 14 March 2005

Alexander: Teen crims laughing at talk-fest conferences

Family group conferences for young offenders are being rorted, United Future¡¦s Marc Alexander said today in revealing a rising trend that has seen one young offender with 11 under his belt, and hundreds of teens who have taken part in anything from three to eight.

¡§There is clearly a pool of hardened young offenders who blithely float from one crime to the next and for whom family group conferences are the proverbial wet bus ticket,¡¨ he said in calling for a ¡¥three strikes¡¦ rule for youth offenders.

In releasing information gained under written parliamentary questions, Mr Alexander said the number of young offenders who had attended two or more family group conferences increased by 125 percent between 2001 and 2004, from 713 to 1601.

He also revealed that in the same three years: „h Those with two family group conference increased from 524 to 944 (up 80%).
„h The number with three jumped from 141 to 395.
„h The number with four almost quadrupled from 43 to 163.
„h The number with five family group conference increased from 3 to 62.
„h The number with six increased from 2 to 23.
„h And in 2004, 11 young offenders were on their seventh family group conference, and another three were on their eighth, ninth and eleventh respectively.

Mr Alexander said the rising trend indicated that current sentencing for youth crime is far too incremental.

¡§Basically, it¡¦s too soft for too long - particularly when you take into account that family group conferences are not generally for first offenders. Most of them are for those who have committed a number of offences and already abused the system of police cautions and diversions,¡¨ he said.

¡§Family group conferences well used are an important tool in youth justice - but we have to look at keeping communities safe from recidivist teenage offenders and this clearly isn¡¦t happening.¡¨

Mr Alexander said that a Ministry of Social Development study released last year found that two-thirds of teens who were brought in to family group conferences reoffended.

¡§We need something like a ¡¥three strikes¡¦ rule for teens, where after they have attended three family group conferences and have shown that they are in fact playing the system, we give them a short, sharp shock and lock them up for a while,¡¨ he said.


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