WelCom March 2021
Groups of the Archdiocese of Wellington have formally opposed proposals for a system of youth justice demerit points, in the Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Demerit Points) Amendment Bill, currently being considered by the Social Service and Community Select Committee of Parliament.
The Archdiocesan Ecology Justice and Peace Commission and Wellington Catholic Social Services submission says the proposal would reduce all the complex situations of young offenders to a simple numbering system.
Their submission says this is fundamentally in conflict with the key principles of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, which acknowledge the importance of recognising the specific circumstances of young offenders, including their whakapapa, the circumstances of their whānau, and their health and educational needs.
‘We see this proposal as a simplistic response to complex social problems, which will divert much needed resources away from work which more effectively makes a difference,’ the written submission says.
Youth development agency Challenge 2000 has also opposed the Bill in a written submission, saying if passed it would reduce the effectiveness and success of the New Zealand Youth Justice system by undermining the Family Group Conference (FGC) system.
The Challenge 2000 submission says the FGC process is recognised internationally as highly effective. ‘The FGC can produce a plan that is designed to reduce offending, make young people accountable and ensure victims’ needs are addressed.’
Both submissions also express concerns about the lack of legal advice and support available to young people under the proposed Bill.
The Attorney-General’s Bill of Rights assessment also raises concerns about the Bill, saying it appears to be inconsistent with the right of a child to be treated in a manner taking account of their age, the right to natural justice and the right to freedom from discrimination.