Innovative new youth court for TaurangaJustice Courts
A new youth court for Tauranga will place a stronger focus on addressing offending by young Māori says Justice and Courts Minister Amy Adams.
Ms Adams today spoke at the opening of the Rangatahi Court at Hairini Marae in Tauranga.
The Rangatahi Courts, a judiciary-led initiative, were established in 2008 to provide a better rehabilitative response to Māori young offenders by encouraging strong cultural links and involving communities in the youth justice process. The Tauranga court is the thirteenth to open.
“For many young people, appearing in court can be a foreign experience. Because of that fundamental disconnect, it is all too easy for some of them to dismiss the process,” says Ms Adams.
“The Rangatahi Court does things differently by placing young offenders in a setting where they can take ownership of their offending, with the support of whānau, kuia and kaumātua. It’s an environment that helps them reconnect with their culture.”
Ms Adams says the Court works within the existing Youth Court framework but uses a marae-based, Māori-specific environment to try to help young Māori and their whānau engage with the justice system in ways that make sense to them.
“This is no ‘soft option’. While the setting is different, the same legal rules apply. Requiring young people to stand up on their marae, in front of their family and their elders, and account for what they have done and how they are putting it right is a powerful, daunting and potentially life-changing experience,” says Ms Adams.
The Rangatahi Courts align with the strategies and initiatives in the Government’s Youth Crime Action Plan.
“The Youth Crime Action Plan recognises the need to do better to reduce the over-representation of Māori in the criminal justice system. A key feature is encouraging government agencies to work together more closely and partner with Māori, communities, parents, schools and others to tackle youth crime and the factors that lead to offending,” says Ms Adams.
- Rangatahi Courts sit in 13 locations around New Zealand. As of 31 December 2014, 1,099 young people have had their Family Group Conference plan monitored on a marae since the first court opened in Gisborne in 2008.
- In December 2012, the Ministry of Justice released an initial evaluation that indicated the Courts were successfully bringing whānau, hapū and iwi together with young offenders to attempt to address the underlying causes of their offending. The Courts have also help connect young Māori with positive role-models within their community.
- The report can be viewed here: www.justice.govt.nz/publications/global-publications/r/rangatahi-court-evaluation-of-the-early-outcomes-of-te-kooti-rangatahi/publication