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Youth beds urgently needed

29 May 2006

Girl denied basic needs shows youth beds urgently needed

News that a 16-year-old girl was left for three days in a cell at Henderson Police Station without a shower or sanitary protection is appalling and highlights an urgent need for more youth justice beds, Green Party Child Youth and Family Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

Auckland Judge Heemi Taumaunu highlighted the girl's plight during a special sitting on Saturday held to ensure the girl, who is remanded in custody facing several charges relating to resisting arrest and burglary, received a shower and personal supplies, saying she seemed to have been treated worse than an adult would have been in the same situation.

"Police cells are not designed for long term detention for anyone, let along young offenders, and the fact that a Judge needed to call a special hearing just to ensure this young girl received a shower and sanitary supplies shows that they are clearly inadequate and inappropriate for holding young people," Ms Bradford says.

"I have also seen reports that judges are so concerned about the problem that they are granting bail to violent young offenders rather that leaving them in police cells, and last week up to 17 children were waiting for a bed. When this is happening something is clearly wrong with the system.

Ms Bradford says the fact that more youth justice beds are so urgently needed makes it very frustrating that a site has still not been found for a planned new youth justice facility.

"I know there is a problem finding a suitable site in the Waikato / Bay of Plenty area but I am mystified as to why the Government doesn't save time and money by using land it already owns. There is land at Waikeria, where a new purpose built facility could be constructed right away rather than going through protracted, expensive processes.

"A few weeks ago the Social Services Select Committee, of which I am a member, visited the new youth justice facility in Manukau. It was ironic that the focus of our visit turned into a public row about a powhiri instead of a dialogue about what is and isn't happening for young people in the youth justice system. This recent case highlights just how important it is that we give this problem our full attention," Ms Bradford says.

ENDS

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