Murder charges laid in Hawke's Bay this week underscore a troubling trend - a growing proportion of youth offenders are responsible or accused of serious crime.

A 14-year-old male charged with murdering Kelly Alex Donner is the third Hawke's Bay teenager to be charged with murder in the space of four months.

A Youth Justice Indicators Summary Report released on Wednesday shone a light on trends in youth offending.

The overall number of young people being charged with serious crimes has dropped over the past decade, but a growing proportion of youth offenders are responsible or accused of serious crime.

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The proportion of young people whose offending was serious enough to lead to court action or family group conferences has risen by 19 per cent between 2013/14 and 2016/17, after very little change from 2009/10 to 2013/14.

However, since 2009/10, the overall number of young people whose offending was serious enough for court action or family group conferences went down from 4860 to 2026 - a reduction of 58 per cent.

There have been very large reductions in the number of children aged 10 to 13 and young people aged 14 to 16 who offended (down from 5139 to 2109 children and down from 14,183 to 5188 young people).

The offending rate (which measures the proportion who offend compared to those who don't) for children and young people declined by 59 per cent and 63 per cent respectively. The offending rates for all three main ethnic groups more than halved.

And the rate of Youth Court appearances decreased by 38 per cent.

The percentages of serious youth offending across the police districts paint a grim picture for Northland (57 per cent), Bay of Plenty (47 per cent), Waitemata (45 per cent) and Wellington (44 per cent).

The percentage of serious youth offending in the Eastern police district - Hawke's Bay and Gisborne combined - was 42 per cent.

The Youth Justice Indicators Summary also noted almost all youth offenders were already known to authorities before the crimes took place.

"The data highlights that young people who offend often have complex problems, which can be among the underlying causes of their offending.

"For almost all of the children and young people referred for a youth justice family group conference, someone had previously expressed concern that they or their family needed help.

"That is, Oranga Tamariki had recorded a prior report of concern relating to their care and protection. The proportion has increased over the period examined."

The latest to be charged, a Hastings teenager who cannot be named, appeared in the Hastings Youth Court on Thursday morning.

He was the fifth youth to be arrested in relation to the death of Donner, who was found dead in the carpark of a Flaxmere pub on March 4.

One female and three males, aged 14 to 16, were arrested and charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm on March 16.

At the time police said they were seeking a fifth youth in relation to the matter and on April 6 they arrested the 14-year-old male.

He was initially charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm but now faces one charge of murder.

The teenager appeared before Judge Bridget Mackintosh in the Youth Court this morning and was remanded in custody to next appear in the High Court at Napier on May 10.

The accused was the seventh Hawke's Bay teenager to be charged in relation to murders in the space of four months.

Two 17-year-olds, a male and a female, were charged with murder after Indian national Sandeep Dhiman, 30, was found dead at Matahorua Rd near Tutira on December 18 last year.

Sandeep Dhiman's body was found in a shallow ditch on Matahorua Rd, Tutira, last December.
Sandeep Dhiman's body was found in a shallow ditch on Matahorua Rd, Tutira, last December.

The male, Napier teenager Shaun Liam Karauria, has since pleaded guilty to murdering Dhiman and robbing the deceased of his vehicle and cellphone after causing grievous bodily harm to him.

His sentencing is set for May 24 in the High Court at Napier.

The female, whose name has been suppressed, still faces a charge of murder.

Donner was a well-known man in the Flaxmere community and was remembered as a talkative, friendly, "primo guy" who lived a "glorious, humble life".

The four youths charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in relation to his death also appeared in court today.

The female was remanded on her existing bail without plea to reappear on May 3 and each of the males were remanded in custody without plea to the same date.

The teenagers were arrested almost two weeks after police launched a homicide investigation into Donner's death.

At the time, police thought fear may have stopped people from revealing what they knew about the incident and made repeated appeals to people's sense of community.

Murder carried a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Associate Minister of Justice Aupito William Sio this week said the Youth Justice Indicators Summary Report clearly showed some areas needing improvement.

"Maori are increasingly making up a greater proportion of those who appear in the Youth Court.

"That is why it is a key objective of this government to reframe the justice system from a punitive to a rehabilitation focus and reduce the number of Maori and Pasifika youth in the system," he said.