Government must raise the age of youth justice

The Green Party is joining with youth, justice and disability groups in calling on the National Government to raise the age of youth justice to include 17-year-olds today, and help improve the lives of thousands of young people.

A Government Bill before the House today will consider changes to the Child Youth and Family Act and has the ability to raise the age of youth justice from 16 to 17-year-olds.

“Allowing 17-year-olds to be included in the youth justice system will address causes of offending like substance abuse and family violence, and help drastically reduce reoffending by young people,” said Green Party Justice spokesperson David Clendon.

“Changing this Act could be the difference between a troubled young person receiving the support they need and fulfilling their potential, or continuing down the wrong path.

“Lifting the age of youth justice would help many more Māori youth get the help that they need early on.

“The National Government already agrees that young people in state care need the support of their family and whanau to increase their chances for a happy, healthy life until they are 18. Allowing 17-year-olds to be tried in the youth courts is a further step in the same direction, and will tidy up a law that is currently in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Investing in and supporting troubled 17-year-olds can make a huge difference for these young people’s futures, and will help communities around New Zealand reduce costly and damaging youth offending.

“17-year-olds need their parents to give them permission for a school trip, but currently their family have no right to be present if they are arrested and questioned.

“This is not a question about being soft or hard on crime. Serious crimes like homicide or persistent offending are always dealt with in the High Court, while the youth courts give Police and Judges broader powers to deal with young people.

“Victims of crime are more satisfied with youth court outcomes because they have a real opportunity to participate.

“We are calling on the National Government to change the law to ensure better outcomes for victims, for young people, and for their families,” said Mr Clendon.

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