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Youth Justice must not be left out of the CYF overhaul

Youth Justice must not be left out of the CYF overhaul

Date: 7 April 2016

Some of today’s announcements about the future of Child, Youth and Family are really promising and very welcome. But the Government has missed the opportunity to increase the age at which young people can access the youth justice system at the same time they increased the age of state care.

“Decisions about youth justice should not be disconnected from decisions about state responsibility for the care and protection of children” says Director of JustSpeak, Katie Bruce. “We are talking, far too often, about the same young people”. 20% of young people with care and protection issues have received a custodial sentence by age 21 while 40% have received a community based sentence.”Young people need consistency in the way that we support them to have bright futures as adults, both in care and protection and youth justice. It makes no sense to have different age caps”.

A young person enters adult court and adult prison on their 17th birthday, which is now out of alignment with the new minimum age of state care of 18. The legislation reviewed within the overhaul of CYF is the same legislation that defines the age cap for inclusion in the Youth Court. Today the Government has missed the opportunity to increase the age of youth justice jurisdiction despite this being a recommendation of the CYF review.

“This disconnect is on the one hand telling us that at 17 years old young New Zealanders are not prepared for the responsibility of leaving home and managing their lives on their own, yet that they are mature enough to cope in an adult justice system, which for some will involve imprisonment” says JustSpeak Director Katie Bruce.

The announcement from the Ministry of Social Development today acknowledges that 17 year olds are at a stage in development where they are in need of targeted and appropriate care. This needs to include age appropriate responses to offending. The Government has indicated that it will consider raising the age of youth justice jurisdiction by June this year

“It’s important that justice does not get left behind in the conversation. An holistic approach is essential to deconstruct the complex issues underlying the need for state care.”

JustSpeak looks forward to working further with relevant Ministers leading up to the anticipated decision on the age of youth court jurisdiction in June.


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