Youth justice has become a large issue this election – with each party taking a different stance on how best to rectify the problem. The four largest parties each view the problem and its solutions differently.
Who do you side with?
National plan to focus on young people who commit serious offences by introducing a Young Serious Offenders (YSOs) classification. YSOs aged 14 and over who commit further serious offences will automatically be transferred to the adult court system. As a part of this, we will establish a defence-led Junior Training Academy based at the Waiouru Training Camp. Judges will be able to order YSOs who commit serious subsequent offences to attend the Academy for one year. The Academy will support YSOs to address problems like addiction or a lack of literacy and numeracy skills.
National will remove the ability of YSOs to be referred to a Family Group Conference and will also remove the ability for them to qualify for early release from youth justice facilities. Police will also be given the ability to issue fines to parents who have children lacking adult supervision, or who are walking the streets between 12am and 5am. Any breach of an order directed at a young offender’s parent(s) will no longer be recorded on the young person’s record, but will be recorded on the record of the parent(s).
The Green Party plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. Young people under the age of 18 will not be held in police cells, or mixed with adults outside of their family. The establishment of Youth Rehabilitation Centres will be encouraged. Family Group Conferences will have increased resources, as will the training of Family Group Conference conveners
The Green Party will support models of Maori justice systems for young people, and will ensure that Maori tikanga and reo systems are included in prisons.
Labour will uphold the right of all New Zealanders to access justice by increasing the income threshold so access to legal aid is available to more people, funding the public defence service and community law centres, and comprehensively reviewing other access to justice issues. Labour will also tackle the root causes of crime to reduce offending and make our communities safer. Their policies in health, education, social development, housing, police and corrections all reflect that commitment.
Labour will invest in youth justice centres and programmes to reduce youth offending. They will also ensure the full implementation of international justice standards for young people, including that young persons are detained separately from adults and that detention is a last resort. The party will also rectify Māori over-representation in the prison system by incorporating Māori values of justice and Māori-led initiatives, and tackling systemic biases.
New Zealand First believes that reducing the number of young offenders is linked to full time employment for young people.
Greater parental responsibility for young offenders will also be required. New Zealand First plans to retain Family Group Conferences for young offenders under the age of twelve. This system will only be used for the first three offences of the young offender, and they will subsequently be dealt with by the adult
courts. Police would be provided with the power to address truant behaviour, and the
alcohol purchase age would be raised to 20 years old.