Lower risk 17 year-olds included in youth jurisdiction

  • Anne Tolley
  • Amy Adams
Social Development Justice

The youth justice system will be extended to include lower risk 17 year-olds, Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley have announced today.

The changes, which will take place by 2019, will ensure that all 17 year-old offenders are dealt with according to which jurisdiction is best suited to the particular case.

The vast majority of 17 year-old offenders are lower risk. They will be dealt with in the Youth Court where the interventions are more targeted and lead to better results.

17 year-olds who are serious, violent offenders who commit a range of offences like murder, manslaughter, sexual assaults, aggravated robbery, arson, or serious assaults will continue to be dealt with by adult courts.

In addition, the existing ability to transfer young offenders from youth to adult jurisdiction will be strengthened so that other serious or repeat offenders aged 14 – 17 years-old are individually assessed as to whether they are better dealt with in either the adult or youth jurisdiction.

“The Youth Court is not a soft option. Instead it offers our best opportunity to break the cycle of reoffending. It’s shown that it is effective at reducing crime and holding young offenders to account, by giving them tough but targeted punishments when they commit crime,” says Justice Minister Amy Adams.

The Youth Court offers young offenders rehabilitation and wraparound support to tackle the underlying causes of their offending. The changes will have a particularly positive impact for Māori, who are over-represented in the justice system.

“We know the Youth Court can provide effective incentives to steer youth away from a lifetime of crime. It will take 4873 cases out of the adult system, which will give the adult court greater capacity to deal with serious offences. As a result of these changes, it’s estimated around 265 fewer 17 year olds will reoffend every year, meaning less crime and fewer victims,” says Ms Adams.

“Raising the youth justice age was a recommendation of the independent expert panel which advised me on the overhaul of care and protection,” says Social Development Minister Anne Tolley.

“At the moment many of these young people are written off at the age of 17. We know that once many of them go to an adult prison and associate with gang members and hardened criminals it increases the chance of them reoffending, creates more victims and costs the taxpayer even more money.

“For those who are charged with lower level offending, if the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki can work with them in different ways then it can improve their long-term life outcomes and their communities.”

Existing services and resources will be expanded and increased to support frontline staff and others involved in the youth justice system, before this change takes place by 2019. This includes numbers of Police youth aid officers, social workers, family group conferences, and programmes to address the complex needs of young people with mental health and drug issues.

The Cabinet Paper on the changes can be found at http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/investing-in-children/new-childrens-agency-established.html