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SST calls for transparency in Youth Justice

SST calls for transparency in Youth Justice

15th August 2017

“The lack of transparency in the youth system has allowed a hard-core of youth offenders to maintain their anonymity and offend at will with many insiders denying a problem existed.”

SST founder Garth McVicar today said: “By introducing the new scheme the Government has at least acknowledged a problem exists and while we believe the policy is a first step in the right direction there is still too much left to Judicial discretion, and there are too many other unanswered questions.”

“Government could, and should, draw a line in the sand on youth offending and clearly mandate significant imprisonment terms for certain types of offending by youth. Putting aside murder and manslaughter, which are rightly dealt with by the High Court already, other serious offending such as aggravated robbery, robbery, recidivist burglary and serious or unprovoked assaults should carry mandatory imprisonment in a youth justice facility for significant periods of time. At present, Judicial discretion rules supreme.”

“Our view is that particular types of serious offending by youths should carry mandatory imprisonment in a youth facility. All too often, the system fails due to the soft approach of Judges in the Youth Court, and the youth offender simply continues offending and graduates into the adult prison system after creating many new victims – many of which could have been avoided. Frankly, some youth offenders are too dangerous to leave on our streets.”

“This is about serious, difficult to reform youths, who have little or no fear of the consequences of their offending – because at present there are no real consequences in the Youth Court. In other words, no deterrent.”

“The lack of consequences and transparency in the youth system has allowed a hard core of youth offenders to maintain their anonymity and offend at will with many insiders denying a problem existed.”

“What is needed is a tough and certain response hanging over the head of all serious youth offenders – in other words suspended sentences – lengthy ones. This would give the youth the opportunity to reform in the “boot camp”, but the certainty of imprisonment if unwilling or unable to do so."

“The boot camp should operate as an alternative to the imprisonment otherwise imposed, not the other way around. If the youth successfully completes the boot camp, then that should act as a deduction on the term of imprisonment, and the balance of the term should be suspended. That way, if the youth then goes on to offending again seriously, then they could be recalled to prison.”

“In terms of the fines able to be imposed by Police for parents allowing their children to wander in the middle of the night – how will these be enforced? Millions of dollars of fines accumulated by serious offenders are written off by Judges every year, and millions more go uncollected. The parents in many cases will be those racking up thousands in unpaid fines already. So where is the penalty? Will the Government ensure that such fines will be enforced through mandatory attachment orders? We suspect not.

“While the policy announcement is a step in the right direction, when you dig deeper into it, it appears to lack teeth. New Zealanders and young offenders quite frankly deserve more certainty and complete transparency.”


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