The youth justice system will be extended to include lower risk 17-year-olds.
The changes, which will take place by 2019, will ensure that all 17-year-old offenders are dealt with according to which jurisdiction is best suited to their particular case.
The vast majority of offenders of that age are lower risk and will be dealt with in the Youth Court.
However, those teenagers who are serious, violent offenders who commit a range of offences such as murder, manslaughter, or sexual assault will continue to be dealt with by adult courts.
“The Youth Court is not a soft option. Instead it offers our best opportunity to break the cycle of reoffending,” says the Justice Minister Amy Adams.
“It’s shown that it is effective at reducing crime and holding young offenders to account, by giving them tough but targeted punishments when they commit crime.”
The Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says: “At the moment many of these young people are written off at the age of 17. We know that once many of them go to an adult prison and associate with gang members and hardened criminals it increases the chance of them reoffending, creates more victims and costs the taxpayer even more money.”
Existing services and resources will be expanded and increased to support frontline staff and others involved in the youth justice system, before the change is introduced by 2019.
The New Zealand Law Society welcomed the Government’s announcement in April 2017 that Cabinet had agreed to investigate the move.
NZLS president Kathryn Beck said in a letter to the government: “The Government’s announcement is a welcome step in addressing the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s recommendation that New Zealand should consider setting the age for criminal majority at 18 years.”