The Government has announced it is committing an extra $13.4 million over four years for youth justice, as 17-year-old offenders are to be dealt with in the Youth Court.

Justice and Courts Minister Andrew Little identified young offenders as being alongside victims of crime and those at risk of family and sexual violence as those who are "falling through the gaps of [the] justice system".

"The system is in crisis and failing children and families, depriving victims of access to legal support and justice," he said.

Justice and Courts Minister Andrew Little says young offenders are among those who are
Justice and Courts Minister Andrew Little says young offenders are among those who are "falling through the gaps" of the justice system. Photo / Stephen Parker

The increased funds for young offenders would be used to increase the capacity for those who can be dealt with in the youth justice system, until the age of 17, which will help "manage remand pressures".

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Associate Minister for Justice and Courts Aupito William Sio added: "When 17-year-olds have access to the Youth Court system, including culturally appropriate venues such as Rangatahi and Pasifika Courts, it's estimated that reoffending among those who would otherwise have appeared in an adult court will fall by 15 per cent."

The previous National Government had already announced raising the youth justice age.

The changes, to be introduced by 2019, will mean lower-risk 17-year-old offenders will be dealt with by the Youth Court but serious offences committed by youths, such as murder, manslaughter, sexual assaults, aggravated robbery, arson, or serious assaults will be kicked up to the District Court and upper courts.

To reduce the prison population the Government also wants to enable bail at the earliest opportunity for alleged offenders by ensuring administrative issues are not preventing those who are eligible.

Funding for victims of crime

Victim support services will get an extra $13.5m over four years, the Government announced, to help New Zealanders access crisis response and long-term social support services.

ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway announced that survivors of sexual abuse will receive increased funding of $7.5m over four years for assessment and treatment services.

"Sexual abuse can leave deep scars, and treatment can go a long way towards helping someone recover," Iain Lees-Galloway said.

A boost in funding for domestic violence services – the first in 10 years and a 30 per cent increase in total funding - was announced earlier this month.

Women's Refuge chief executive Dr Ang Jury said she was "immensely relieved" the current Government was committed to addressing "the chronic underfunding of these critical services to vulnerable women and children".

The funding increase came at a time when Women's Refuge was "scrambling" to meet the increase in demand for services, she said.

"We over-deliver on all our family and domestic violence services, and to be able to deliver these now without the pressure of accessing added funding means that we can extend our reach to more women and children wanting to live a violence-free life," she said this month.

"Our baseline funding has remained static for the last nine years, and while the previous Government has made significant progress in the justice area, particularly for victims of family violence, we are pleased to see this Government adequately funding the vital services we provide around the clock to families around Aotearoa."

Following the pre-budget funding announcement anti-domestic violence charity Shine also applauded the Government.

"We have been hearing promises of funding increases for such a long time now, it's actually hard to believe that it is going to happen," spokeswoman Holly Carrington said.

"And while a 30 per cent increase is still not nearly enough to meet the demand - to fund enough advocates in Auckland to focus on more than supporting the victims at highest risk of serious injury and death - it is significant and it will make a difference.

"It will also be a huge boost to the morale of all the very hardworking frontline family violence specialist staff across the country who have felt undervalued by our society for so long."

The National Home Safety Service, which helps high-risk victims of family violence, will also receive $7.7m over the next four years.

There will also be financial assistance to help people with costs associated with being a victim of crime, including support for victims to participate in the criminal justice system.

A new Family and Sexual Violence Central Agent has been given $2m in new operating funding for the 2018-19 year.

Community law centres will receive a boost of $2.2m in extra funding for the next year to provide a wage- and inflation-based increase to help stabilise funding and current service levels.

The Budget announcement also included a dedicated $15m for 2017-18 and a further $88m over the next four years to support the court system to meet increasing demand for court-ordered services such as expert reports, psychiatric assessments and laboratory tests.