Youth Court numbers falling

Resolving youth crimes outside court are helping to bring down the number of Youth Court appearances in the Hawke's Bay.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice under the Official Information Act show 483 people appeared in Hawke's Bay Youth Courts in the past three years, with 51 being convicted.

Last year there were 57 Napier Youth Court appearances, down from 81 in 2011, and 84 in 2010.

Seventy-two people appeared in Hastings Youth Court last year, down from 99 in 2011, and 102 in 2010.

Hawke's Bay police youth services coordinator sergeant Ross Stewart said officers had been teaming up with iwi groups to try to resolve youth offending outside court.

"We liaise with them and work with them and then they work with not only the child, or the youth, but also his or her extended family. They help to address not only the issues the child may be facing, but also what the family may be facing. That's probably been the biggest influence in the drop."

Youth crime in Hawke's Bay ranged from minor offending involving alcohol, through to manslaughter, Mr Stewart said.

Dishonesty offending was the most common.

Nationally, 3015 people appeared in Youth Court last year, with 198 convicted.

The figures also showed Youth Court appearances had been dropping in recent years.

There were 3579 Youth Court appearances in 2011, down from 3942 in 2010.

The majority of appearances last year were by males aged between 14 and 16 (2430). However, the figures showed 564 female youths also appeared.

Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft said unlike adult offenders, only around 20 per cent of youth offenders arrested by police were taken to court.

"The other 80 per cent are not let off, but they're dealt with by police firmly, promptly, creatively, in the community."

Most youth offenders police dealt with "aged out" and did not reoffend, Judge Becroft said.

District Courts general manager Tony Fisher said there were a number of possible outcomes after a child or young person appeared in Youth Court and admitted to the charge or, had the charge against them proven.

If the offence isn't serious, police could decide not to take the case any further - so it's almost as if the youth had never been charged.

At the most serious end of the scale, the youth's case could be moved to the District Court for sentencing.

Other possible outcomes included a 'conditional discharge' - where the youth was let off unless they broke the law again within a certain time, reparation, alcohol or drug rehabilitation, community work, or the child could be placed under the care of Child, Youth and Family.

The Youth Court could also order the child's parent or guardian to attend a parenting education programme.

Aside from a District Court sentencing, the outcomes were noted on the youth's record of behaviour, but did not count as criminal convictions, Mr Fisher said.

"They do not affect the child or young person's chances for a job or overseas travel."

Last week, youth justice advocate JustSpeak spokeswoman Danielle Kelly said most New Zealanders would be surprised how variable prosecution decisions were for young people.

"Locally tailored approaches are a valuable part of our justice system. However, it is not fair if a young person in Auckland may be denied alternative action because he or she is living in an area more likely to prosecute," she said.

By the numbers

  • 2123 10-to-16 year-olds apprehended for resolved crimes in Eastern police district in 2012

  • 511 (24.07 per cent) prosecuted

  • 29,153 10-to-16 year-olds apprehended for resolved crimes nationwide in 2012

  • 6704 (23 per cent) prosecuted

Source: JustSpeak

- Hawkes Bay Today

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