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Children’s Commissioner Cindy Kiro confirms that she does not want youth criminals punished for their crimes.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on April 19, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Children’s Commissioner Cindy Kiro confirms that she does not want youth criminals punished for their crimes.
Wednesday, 18.04.2007, 07:32am (GMT12)

Jailing children ‘a giant leap in wrong direction’

 5:00AM Wednesday April 18, 2007
By Derek Cheng 

Opening the door for criminal prosecutions against children for serious crimes would be a giant leap in the wrong direction, children advocacy groups say.

Children’s Commissioner Cindy Kiro said instead of locking up children the system should look at recognising criminal tendencies, early intervention and reform.

“Accountability mechanisms exist within the law already, and people who push ‘adult crime, adult time’ are way out of step,” she said.

The comments come after the release of a Government document calling for submissions on updating the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989.

The document floats many issues for discussion, including a lower age for criminal prosecution and, for serious youth offenders, longer supervision sentences, home detention and electronically monitored parole.

It notes widespread support for the present system, but concern over repeat offenders aged under 14.

The Government has so far resisted a tougher stance, but the document indicates an open mind about criminal prosecution for children as young as 12.

Dr Kiro supported updating and clarifying the law and said the system was inadequate for dealing with child offenders.

She supported the document in looking at extending the jurisdiction of the Youth Court, which can impose a number of measures.

“But not locking them up, not punishing them, but instead looking at how we get them to own up to the offending and basically get in there before things get too out of control.”

Chairman of Children’s Agenda Ian Hassall said there was no evidence that punitive measures contributed to reform.

“The public needs to be protected, and in the case of children the best way is to try and reform, not punish,” he said.

Dr Hassall disputed claims that serious offences committed by children aged 12 and 13 was an increasing problem.

National figures for police apprehensions for those under 14 have dropped significantly since 2000. But apprehensions for violent crimes have decreased only slightly overall, and apprehensions for sexual crimes have fluctuated.

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark, who has a bill before a select committee to lower the age of prosecution to 12, claimed the document was a victory, even though it was only at a discussion phase.

“This is, in my view, an admission that serious recidivist offenders require something tougher,” he said.

“Serious recidivist youth criminals who are inflicting random acts of violence on the community need to understand that there are consequences for their actions, and therein will lie the deterrent for such behaviour.”

But Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier, who was one of several parties consulted for the document, said the issue was more complex than just applying stiffer sentences.

“We could do more to deal with the underlying causes of crime. Achieving this may be more productive than leaving it to the Youth Court and District Court when patterns of offending are often already established.”

Judge Boshier, who has called for more accountability, said he welcomed debate on the issues.

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