New Zealand Law Society - Law Society supports Youth Justice eligibility extension

Law Society supports Youth Justice eligibility extension

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The Law Society has written to the Social Development and Justice Ministers, welcoming the Government's announcement that Cabinet has agreed to investigate extending the upper age of the youth justice jurisdiction to include 17 year olds. 

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says Cabinet has agreed to major state care reforms to "improve the long-term life outcomes for New Zealand's most vulnerable population".

Part of the reforms include investigation into raising the youth justice age to include 17 year olds. Currently, 16 is the upper limit of the youth justice jurisdiction.

The New Zealand Law Society welcomes the announcement. Extending the youth justice jurisdiction would meet New Zealand's obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.   

The Law Society has previously made submissions recommending that a "child" be defined as a person under the age of 18 years.

"Recent research into teenagers' cognitive development has allowed greater understanding of how their decision-making capacity matures", Vicki Thorpe, the convenor of the Law Society's Youth Justice Committee, says 

"Managing 17 year-olds through the Youth Court processes presents better opportunities to get to the bottom of their offending and prevent them re-offending.

"The Youth Court is not a soft option – and cases of serious offending are escalated to adult courts."

Ms Tolley says a new "child-centred" system to replace CYF will be in place before April 2017.