A dairy owner is threatening a hunger strike if the perpetrators responsible for a violent aggravated robbery at his business that forced its closure are not brought to justice.
The owner of Rainbow Dairy in Whangārei, who asked not to be named, was fuming after one of two teenage boys allegedly responsible for the hold-up was granted bail in the Youth Court this week while another is in custody.
He called on the Government to get tough on juvenile offenders through a combination of custodial sentences and hard labour to inculcate in them a sense of work ethic and value for money.
"All dairy owners in the past that have been beaten up and robbed have gone back to their businesses, but for me it's better to close the shop, go to Work and Income and live off a benefit," the dairy owner said.
"If I have to go on hunger strike to get my point across that juveniles who commit these types of offences need to be locked up and made to do hard labour, then I will.
"Nothing is done to them because of their age. The Government should seriously, in light of the number of serious violent crimes, committed by people as young as 13 and 14, try them either in adult court or lower the age threshold in the Youth Court," he said.
On August 21, two knife-wielding robbers jumped over the counter at Rainbow Dairy and demanded the owner's wife hand over her 2-month-old baby girl before they allegedly ripped out the cash register and emptied cigarettes off shelves before running away.
His wife and another family member locked themselves in a back room to escape the robbers who also trashed the shop.
Police arrested two teenagers aged 15 and 16 in Kauika Rd within an hour.
His business on Rust Ave was the second dairy in Northland to close this year as the Ministry of Justice, Oranga Tamariki and police grapple with the scourge of youth offending throughout the country.
There has been an increase in dairy robberies nationally, with some blaming it on the high price of cigarettes.
In January this year, the owner of Kingsway Dairy in Hikurangi shut after 11 aggravated robberies in 14 years left him with no other option.
The Rainbow dairy owner said if Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's baby had been caught up in an armed hold-up, the wheels of justice would have moved faster and tougher.
"My wife and baby, like other victims of dairy robberies, go through the same trauma irrespective of the age of the offenders so why should a juvenile offender be treated differently to that of an adult offender?"
The Northern Advocate understands one of the alleged robbers at Rainbow Dairy was in the care of Oranga Tamariki at the time.
The government agency said it could not comment on any matter before the court.
"Oranga Tamariki puts children and young people first and part of that responsibility is protecting the privacy of vulnerable tamariki and rangatahi who need our support."
Associate Justice Minister Aupito William Sio said there was no evidence tougher penalties reduced offending.
"It is more important to address the underlying causes of offending, and work with the young person's whānau or family to support them to live a crime-free life."
Releasing a young person on bail, he said, was not an indication the offence was not considered serious.
"The Youth Court can impose custodial and community-based orders on serious and repeat young offenders. In the most serious cases, the young person can be transferred to the District Court to be sentenced as an adult," Sio said.
New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores executive director Dave Hooker said the penalties imposed by the Youth Court for serious violent offences did not seem effective.
"Police say that many of these young people do not think of the consequences of their actions. Also, the Government is saying there are too many people in jail so that's one issue they have."