INDEPENDENT NEWS

Prevention and cure for Youth Offending

Published: Fri 13 Aug 1999 04:33 PM
Nearly half of all crime is estimated to be committed by children and young people. Labour has developed a comprehensive policy to tackle youth offending which focuses on prevention and on dealing with hardcore repeat offenders, Labour justice spokesperson Phil Goff said.
"We must break the cycle of offending," Mr Goff said.
"We need to get children off the path to a life of crime and help them achieve their potential as positive and contributing members of our community. But we must also protect society from those offenders who pose a serious risk to public safety, regardless of their age.
"Too many children grow up in environments of abuse and neglect. Too few programmes exist to help families and schools prevent children with behavioural problems going on to become criminal offenders.
"Labour will support intervention programmes. The Family Start programme will be developed and expanded. Labour will pilot mentoring programmes for children who lack any positive male role model. A specialist foster care programme will be developed. Labour will evaluate and further develop intensive individualised programmes for young people at risk, like the wraparound service in Otahuhu. Iwi and hapu based organisations will be encouraged to further develop their roles as providers of family intervention programmes.
"Every school will be expected to enforce an adequate truancy policy and have a policy for dealing with bullying and violence. School community conferences will be piloted as a positive alternative to suspension or expulsion of troublesome students.
"Through these measures and others, better fences will be placed at the top of the cliff. But there is still a need for ambulances at the bottom.
"The Children, Young Persons and the Families Act has been poorly implemented," Phil Goff said. "Too often the recommendations of Family Group Conferences have not been carried out, giving the message to both the offender and the victim that there is no real accountability in the system.
"Labour will improve the resourcing and support given to CYPFA to ensure the system works. We will work with Victim Support to ensure that families attending Family Group Conferences are properly supported.
"Young offenders who are not rehabilitated go on to a lifetime of adult criminal offending. Labour will increase funding to community-based programmes that achieve effective results in tackling causes of criminal behaviour. There will be more opportunities for Maori to work with their young offenders. Specialist youth mental health services will be available through the health system.
"Police Youth Aid have identified poor training of front-line police in dealing with young offenders as a significant problem. Police need to make youth crime a priority. Labour will ensure Police are organised, trained and supported to respond more effectively to youth crime. Labour will work with the Commissioner for Children, the Police and the Youth Court to find appropriate ways to allow fingerprinting of suspected young offenders. A police infringement notice system will be introduced for less serious offences, with a focus on restorative justice e.g. cleaning up graffiti.
"Incarceration of young offenders is a last resort. However, public safety must be a paramount consideration where a young offender poses a serious threat. The community rightly regards it as utterly unacceptable that recently a young offender committed ten aggravated robberies without being put in secure custody to stop his offending.
"Labour will implement long overdue plans to establish secure purpose-built facilities. The Police will be able to apply to the appropriate Court for serious recidivist young offenders to be placed in secure care. Youth Court judges will be allowed to sentence young offenders to secure care for up to one year, instead of the current three months of Social Welfare 'supervision with residency.'
"Labour's approach combines prevention and cure measures," Phil Goff said. "We will encourage early intervention programmes to help at risk children. Other programmes will help young offenders avoid the progression to adult criminal careers. Problems with the current police and justice system responses to youth offending will be addressed and the public will be protected from recidivist offenders."

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