Judge Louis Bidois says 100 years of mainstream justice in Hawke's Bay has not rehabilitated and engaged youth, and in fact it has "alienated" many.
Bidois, the presiding judge for the Rangatahi Court, Nga Koti Rangatahi, says the alternative marae-based judicial system for youth aged 14 to 17 is needed.
The courts work within the Youth Court legal structure. The same laws and consequences apply as they would in the Youth Court.
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Hawke's Bay will have its first sitting at the Rangatahi Court, based at Te Aranga Marae, on August 20.
"There are 15 Rangatahi Courts around New Zealand and evaluations have established that there is a significant reduction in offending by the young person," Bidois said.
"They have been proven to provide enhanced justice to young people, their family and victims.
"There is better engagement with Rangatahi Courts and it is designed to connect young persons back to their culture, to provide a better platform for the delivery of effective interventions.
"A hundred years of mainstream justice has not been successful, in fact it has alienated many. There's no cultural input in mainstream justice.
"With Rangatahi Courts families can identify with the judicial system, and the young persons are exposed to the wisdom of the kaumatua, not just the judge.
"They are surrounded by tikanga."
A typical hearing at a Rangatahi Court starts with a pōwhiri of manuhiri on to the marae.
Each hearing begins with the young person receiving a mihi (talk) from the kaumātua, showing respect to that young person and acknowledging their whānau, hapū and iwi links.
The hearing also includes the judge, police, kaumātua/kuia, social worker, court staff, whānau, a youth advocate - the young person's lawyer - a lay advocate and the victim if they choose to attend.
Bidois said "victim satisfaction" was greater as well.
"It's also on a marae, which is neutral territory. It's not iwi or hapu based.
"There's support in place to ensure the kaupapa of the Rangatahi Court is upheld, and that all stakeholders are treated respectfully."
The court determines which marae will hold the Rangatahi Court. Flaxmere councillor and marae chairman Henare O'Keefe says the courts are not a "silver bullet" to rehabilitate troubled youth.
Rather, he said, they are an alternative to the status quo.
"If you keep doing the same thing over and over, you get the same results. Rangatahi Courts offer an alternative form of justice for our youth."
O'Keefe said the marae-based Maori youth court would go some way in addressing an "imbalance" in the justice system where Maori processes and protocols weren't followed.
"The court will be about rehabilitation, restoration and healing," O'Keefe said.
"We want the youth to engage with their cultural roots. During the time the youth attends the Rangatahi Court, it is expected that they will learn their pepeha [traditional greeting of tribal identity]."
This is done with the help of their lay advocate.
At each hearing, the young person will practise delivering their pepeha. The young person may also be encouraged to attend a tikanga wānanga to help them learn more about their cultural identity.
"We have to start somewhere to make a change, something needs to change, otherwise why bother," O'Keefe said.
Rangatahi and Pasifika Courts apply the same law and procedure as any other Youth Court, but in a marae or Pasifika community setting.
They incorporate Māori and Pacific languages and protocols.
Young people of any ethnicity may be referred to these courts if they admit to their offending, and if the victim consents.
The Rangatahi and Pasifika Courts regularly monitor a plan set by a family group conference.