The Social Services and Community Select Committee has recommended the Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Demerit Points) Amendment Bill not proceed, with the Hon Mark Mitchell, the member in charge of the Bill, asking for the Bill to be withdrawn from the House.
The New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa welcomes this recommendation after telling Committee members that a ‘demerit points’ system for youth offenders was not supported by evidence and unlikely to achieve its objective of delivering appropriate consequences for youth offending.
The Law Society’s submission said the establishment of a demerit point system would not be reasonable and would be inconsistent with the underlying philosophy of the Youth Court, which focuses on holding young offenders to account while also recognising their individual needs and vulnerabilities.
The Committee released their report on 21 May 2021 having conducted a review of the youth justice system, including consideration of the principles that the current system is based on, as specified in the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
The Committee said: “The demerit point system would lead to more young people entering the youth justice system and being subject to formal court processes. The number of young people subject to the adult court system might also increase, as the number of offenders referred to the District Court or the High Court is also likely to increase. These outcomes are contrary to the principles of the youth justice system.”
The Committee agreed with the Law Society and several other submitters including the Children’s Commissioner that the Bill would not have the desired result of reducing rates of offending and reoffending among youth. Rather, it will be important to uphold a system that allows for discretion based on the best interests of the young person.
The current youth justice principles allow for flexibility and discretion, recognising that young offenders have their own specific and often complex needs, and “that a broad and simple approach to all young offenders will not reduce youth offending”.
The Committee added: “We kept these principles in mind when carrying out our consideration of the bill. We came to the view that implementing the bill as proposed would significantly contradict those principles.”
The Bill was officially withdrawn on 26 May 2021.