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Greens to oppose child imprisonment Bill

21 March 2006

Greens to oppose child imprisonment Bill


Green MPs agreed unanimously this morning to oppose New Zealand First MP Ron Mark's Bill to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 12, Green Party Youth Affairs Spokesperson and caucus Musterer Metiria Turei says.

Mr Mark's Young Offenders (Serious Crimes) Bill was pulled from the ballot last week and is set to be debated in Parliament in the next fortnight.

It seeks to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12, widen the range of serious offences that can be heard by the Youth Court, and also introduces a 'three strikes' rule whereby any youth with more than three convictions would be treated as an adult offender on their fourth conviction, regardless of the offence.

"We are appalled at the suggestion that offenders as young as 12 should be treated as 'adults' by the justice system," Mrs Turei says.

"Ron Mark says the principle behind his Bill is 'adult punishment' for 'adult crimes'. He seems to be blind to the obvious problem with that statement - that we are not talking about adults, we are talking about children.

"While we acknowledge that we should be doing all we can to address the problem of children committing serious offences, treating them as adults and imposing tougher penalties is certainly not the way to do this.

"More than any other group of offenders, children have a high capacity for rehabilitation. Locking them away in youth or adult prisons only increases the risk that they will become hardened repeat offenders. We should instead be focussing on improving education, rehabilitation and counseling services for young offenders to help them turn their lives around before they become casualties of the system," Mrs Turei says.

"At a time when New Zealand's prison population is at a crisis level high, the suggestion that we should lock away more people at a younger age is ridiculous. High rates of incarceration are not reducing crime or recidivism in the adult population, and even the Sensible Sentencing Trust have acknowledged that we need fresh thinking on this issue.

"There is also no doubt that more youth correction facilities would need to be built under Ron Mark's plan, and this is already proving extremely problematic.

"This Bill is riddled with practical problems, but more importantly, it represents a fundamentally flawed and harmful approach to the problem of young offenders. The Greens will be vehemently opposing it at every stage," Mrs Turei says.

ENDS

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