The principal Youth Court judge says the country's youth
justice system is moving in the right direction, with the
number of youth apprehensions halving in the past five years.
Judge Andrew Becroft said the 50% decline in youth
apprehensions was good news.
His comments were made during a University of Otago
department of theology and religion panel discussion on youth
justice with University of Otago law faculty dean Prof Mark
Henaghan, sociology, gender and social work department
lecturer Dr Shayne Walker, and Victoria University school of
art history, classics and religious studies head Prof Chris
Judge Becroft said the overall news was good, but there were
still some ''huge concerns''.
''That said, however quickly youth apprehension rates are
coming down, the drop in Maori youth apprehension is
The number of young females apprehended was also slow to
decline, and the rate of serious violent offending was not
declining at the rates he would like to see, he said.
Prof Henaghan questioned Judge Becroft's statistics. He
believed apprehensions had declined, but not crime.''
There is a real trend where police don't apprehend youths -
they warn them instead.''
Judge Becroft said whether youths were arrested or just
warned, New Zealand Police still counted them as an
apprehension in their statistics.
Prof Henaghan believed the number of Maori youth being
apprehended was slower to decline because they were perhaps
the focus of unfair attention from police.
Dr Walker agreed.
He believed there appeared to be a bias not only in policing,
but across the entire justice system.
All believed a lack of positive role models, witnessing
violence at a young age, having transient relationships with
parents and having transient accommodation, growing up in
poverty, drug and alcohol use, being illiterate, and getting
involved with the wrong support network were risk factors
which could lead to youth crime.
Judge Becroft believed keeping youths involved in a
meaningful form of education, and making sure they had three
or four adults outside their immediate family to take an
active interest in their future, may be the ''silver bullet''
answer to youth crime.
He also questioned whether New Zealand had ''the right
balance'' in drug and alcohol availability.