• Roger Sowry
Social Welfare

A review of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 is underway to target repeat juvenile offenders as provided for in the Coalition Agreement, said Minister of Social Welfare, Hon. Roger Sowry.

"An interdepartmental working group was recently set up to undertake the review which will specifically target repeat juvenile offenders. This group will report their findings to me before the end of the year.

"The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act has worked well since it became law in 1989. This year the Family Group Conference process and the New Zealand Family Court were selected for this year's American Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Judge Irwin Cantor Distinguished Program Award. Principal Family Court Judge Patrick Mahony was presented the award at the 2nd World Congress on Family Law and the Rights of Children and Youth in San Francisco in May," said Mr Sowry.

The Act also received praise this year from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in its annual Progress of Nations report, which said of the legislation:

"...By involving non-governmental organizations outside legal counsel and young people and their families, the juvenile justice system remains open. This openness reinforces something that young people need to know: The door into that system swings both ways - it does not lock forever behind them."

Amendments to the Act were last made in 1994.

The working group is made up of representatives from the Department of Social Welfare's Social Policy Agency, the Children, Young Persons and their Families Service, Police, Ministry of Justice, Department of Corrections, Department for Courts, Te Puni Kokiri, Ministry of Youth Affairs, the Crime Prevention Unit of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Treasury.

The review will provide:

a definition of repeat juvenile offenders;
an identification of the size and characteristics of this group, and offending patterns over time;
an overview of current provisions and practices for dealing with repeat juvenile offenders;
examining problems in applying those provisions and practices;
options to address those problems; and recommendations to the Minister of Social Welfare.
"Once the group has presented its report to me, it is likely to be considered by the Cabinet, and I would expect this to lead to new legislation in 1998," said Mr Sowry.