Vulnerable youth need justice reform

The Government should heed calls from child rights advocates and raise the age of youth justice to include 17 year olds, the Green Party said today.

34 community, academic and justice organisations today released a joint letter urging the Government to include 17 year olds in the youth justice system, days before New Zealand will appear before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva.

“The evidence is clear: allowing 17 year olds to be tried in youth courts will create better outcomes for young people, their whanau and help reduce reoffending,” Green Party justice spokesperson David Clendon said today.

“Most people, particularly those who have been victims of crime themselves, support the kind of restorative justice processes that are found in the youth court system.  

“New Zealand’s current laws are in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, putting our good reputation on justice issues at risk.

“When vulnerable children find themselves in the criminal justice system, it’s vital that we provide them with an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and support them to make positive changes.

“17 year olds are treated as children in virtually every other aspect of their lives, but under the current law, a misstep at this impressionable age can have devastating consequences.   

“It’s time for the Government to act compassionately by changing our outdated legislation to give young people the best chance at life,” said Mr Clendon.