The Porirua District Court has started trialling a Young Adult List which separates out those aged 18 to 25 from others appearing in court and provides extra support to help identify any health needs or impairments the young people may have.
The first Young Adult List was held on Friday, 6 March, and the sessions will be held at Porirua District Court every Friday.
Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker says the new approach recognises that a high percentage of young adult offenders suffer from neuro-disabilities such as dyslexia, acquired brain injury and foetal-alcohol spectrum disorder.
“Often they also come from a background of being exposed to trauma and abuse. Those challenges do not expire when they come into the adult court. We also know their brains are not fully developed. Currently we treat them as fully functioning adults when demonstrably they are not.”
Judge Walker says if the law is to deliver effective interventions to reduce reoffending, the underlying issues for young adult offenders need to be identified and taken into account.
Judge Walker has developed the initiative with support from the Ministry of Justice, Judges from the Porirua District Court, justice agencies, local iwi and others from the local Porirua community. The first session began with a mihi whakatau, karakia and waiata.
The Young Adult List sessions also feature greater explanation of court procedure to ensure the young adults better engage with the process and understand the proceedings.
Those appearing are able to access a range of wrap-around services similar to those available in the Youth Court, and services represented in the court include specialist forensic services, adolescent focused Corrections Officers, iwi liaison, Alcohol and Other Drug Clinician, Community Link, and Restorative Justice.