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Concerns Over the Outcome of New Approach for Troubled Youth

Sensible Sentencing Trust Concerned Over the Outcome of New Approach for Troubled Youth

21st March 2017

On Friday night in Kaikohe a large number of youths - the youngest believed to be 11 years old, attempted to break into a service station. They were unsuccessful but caused damage estimated at $1000.

A grandmother of one of the youths recognised her mokopuna and reported him. She said they have had trouble with him and tried to help him but he doesn't want to know "Don't think we as grandparents don't give a hoot. We've tried helping him and it was thrown back in our faces. What do you do when your grandson doesn't want help, doesn't appreciate what's given to him? Don't worry, I've wanted to kick his backside on many occasions but they pull that card, 'I'll ring the cops'. It's just all so frustrating”.

Sensible Sentencing Trust Youth Advocate Jess McVicar says this is exactly what she has been trying to say in regard to her concerns with the raising of the youth justice age. "There are two points of real concern to come up in this situation. A high percentage of troubled youths do not care and are committing crimes because they are untouchable and there are no real consequences. They may have to attend a family conference and then its life back to normal for them..…that is until they turn 18 years old!! They will have no record, so when they are an adult they will look squeaky clean. Sadly youths are also being used by adults to commit crimes because there are no repercussions. There are just not enough Police to get these kids off the street and under the new Youth Justice Legislation, it is the Police that will be working with these kids and bearing the brunt. The crime numbers will continue to grow and the government will put more pressure on our Police".

Jess says Lobby Groups such as Just Speak battled to get the youth justice age raised to 18 years old, they originally wanted it to be 21 years old; they said that youths that committed crimes do not have the brain functionality to cope with making good and bad decisions and that New Zealand’s punishments are too harsh for them. "The grandmother that has spoken out here has said they tried to help their grandson but he thinks he is untouchable. He only thinks that because he has not been held accountable by our Justice system"

Jess says she is concerned at how youth crime is going to continue to rise "We have been making excuses for criminals for too long, from small petty crime to larger scale. We make excuses for them all, and then we expect the Police to pick up the pieces.

The youth that committed the crimes up North on Friday should now have to do community work, there has to be some consequence to atone for the cost of damage they caused and the alcohol they stole. It’s about setting boundaries and sticking to them"

Jess believes there needs to be a system of a military style camp where the youth who are involved in these crimes have to attend for a certain amount of time - a 3 Strikes type system for youth - the worse the crime, the more time you get at that military camp.

"Something has to happen before our youth justice age changes, because the Police are not going to be able to manage the rise in numbers of youth criminals. These youth have no respect for the Police because they cannot do anything to them, they can't even lock them in the cells for the night. This is not doing the youth any favours in the long run and when this new legislation goes wrong, all the people who lobbied for it will then blame it on someone else". ENDS


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