WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Forum Debates Youth Justice Age

WelCom December 2016:

Youth, Schools, Education

Daniel Kleinsman, Challenge 2000

Some 60 people listened to experts debate raising the age from 17 to 18 or higher in New Zealand’s youth court. The evening event was held at St Joseph’s Church, Mt Victoria, on 17 November. The panel included: Steve O’Connor, Challenge 2000 director; Matthew Crooymans, a family and criminal lawyer; Sonja Cooper, a youth advocate and legal principal; and Katie Bruce, Director of JustSpeak.

Steve said the youth court is more effective in reducing reoffending. Matthew Crooymans said the youth court is better set up to engage with young people and their circumstances, that 17 to 20 year olds lack a maturity and are not provided for in the District Court environment.

Speaking from 30 years’ experience as a youth advocate, Sonja said the Youth Court system is effective and necessary for addressing the particular nature of youth offending and spoke of the link between lack of adequate social support and crime statistics.

The panel concluded that raising the age is necessary. MC Heath Hutton advised steps to support and influence this cause by writing to MPs, talking to others and informing public debate, especially during the election year; supporting organisations that attempt to fill the gaps left by an inadequate state response; and signing JustSpeak’s petition to raise the age to 21.

At the forum were representatives from Challenge 2000, JustSpeak, Catholic Social Services, Open Home Foundation, Prison Fellowship NZ, Urban Vision, the Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice, Care NZ and the Nathaniel Centre.