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Private Member’s Bill “Utterly Wrong Approach”


Media Release
13 August 2001


No Sense in Punishing Parents
Private Member’s Bill “Utterly Wrong Approach”


A national provider of services for at-risk young people says a campaign to make parents financially responsible for the crimes of their children is naive and counter productive.

The Clinical Director of the Richmond Fellow New Zealand, Dr Mike Reid, says he is alarmed at a Bill being promoted by National MP Tony Steel. Mr Steel’s Youth Offenders (Parental Responsibility) Bill would empower the courts to award costs against the parents of youth offenders and to demand improved parenting skills.

“We acknowledge that New Zealand has a major youth offending problem, but we fail to see the point in making parents financially responsible for youth crime,” says Dr Reid. “Many parents of youth offenders are already disadvantaged financially, so to put them under further pressure would only force them into a hopeless situation.

“We would welcome a proper process for examining the causes of youth crime and developing a national strategy. We also agree that the Family Group Conference is failing to prevent re-offending, and needs to be re-examined. However, Mr Steel’s Bill is well wide of the mark. It’s punitive, short sighted and fails to tackle the underlining causes of youth offending. Instead of demanding better parenting skills through the courts, it would be better to intervene with the right skills outside the justice system.”

The Fellowship, which launched national Specialist Youth Services earlier this year, is advocating the introduction of Multi Systemic Therapy (MST) to deal with complex underlying causes of youth offending. “It’s important to note that effective interventions are available for at-risk young people, but in New Zealand we’ve been slow to introduce new techniques,” says Dr Reid.

“With MST we would have a very reasonable chance to prevent a young offender from entering the adult justice system. Here in New Zealand we still focus on containing the young person, often for around 18months with no real measure of success.”

The Fellowship has raised $100,000 from corporate supporters to introduce MST, following success in the UK, United States, Norway and Canada. “We’re somewhat alarmed that agencies in New Zealand have overlooked the potential of MST, and that’s why we’ve gone to the private sector for support. It’s significant that we have attracted this level of backing for an area that has not traditionally received corporate funding.”

“Tony Steel is correct in saying that young offenders often go on to commit more serious crimes, but punishing their parents won’t change that. It’s an utterly wrong approach. What we urgently need is Government support for effective and evidence based intervention services such as MST.”

Ends
Further information:
Dr Gerry Walmisley, Chief Executive Officer, Phone 03 365 3211
Dr Mike Reid, Clinical Director, Phone 365 3211

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