Adult crimes require adult consequences: don’t buckle John

New Zealand is being labelled an international embarrassment for continuing to put 17-year-olds on trial as adults.

Andrew Becroft said New Zealand should have raised the age at which offenders were treated as adults a long time ago. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King
In an open letter to Prime Minister John Key, 33 groups dealing with young people called for the youth court age to be raised to 18.

Children’s Commissioner and former principal youth court judge Andrew Becroft said New Zealand, as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, should have raised the age at which offenders were treated as adults a long time ago.

Apart from a few US states, New Zealand stood alone in not having done so and was an embarrassment, he said.

“We are just entirely out of step and we just can’t go on simply ignoring it year after year – it’s just unacceptable and it represents really an enduring stain on our otherwise good justice record.

“It’s got to be fixed, it’s got to be addressed and it’s got to be done now.”

It was a popular misconception that by raising the age to 18 young people would suddenly be let off with more serious crimes, he said.

“The Youth Court has still open to it the very serious sentences where young people can be convicted and transferred to the district court for sentence.

Brainwave Trust, an organisation that looks at brain development in children and young people, was also a signatory.Spokesperson Sue Wright said there was now a scientific basis on which to say 17-year-olds should not be treated as adults by the justice system.

“In these mid-teen years which is about 15, 16, 17, adolescents’ brains are at the peak of a new phase of development with a pre-frontal cortex, a part of the front of the brain that does all of the consequence thinking and planning thinking, still in construction.”

Compelling teenagers to engage in risky behaviour was all part of nature’s plan, she said.

“Literally in the brain you have chemicals that drive you to take risks because otherwise we’d never leave home.

“It’s believed this is a biological change in the brain to encourage us to leave the environment in which we’ve grown up and go out and explore in the world.”

A proposal to raise the age to 18 went to Cabinet recently but no decision has been made.

A government delegation will front up to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva on Friday to explain New Zealand’s position as part of a five-yearly review of countries and their level of compliance. Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft will address the committee on Thursday.

I have no problem that these younger offenders might get incarcerated and treated differently because of their relative youth and “developing brains”.

The fact is, by the time a 17 year old gets to face prison time, they have done something seriously, seriously wrong!  Almost all of the time it is the culmination of numerous prior run-ins with the law.

To give them an “out” by saying their brain isn’t fully developed is to shift responsibility, like saying he was on drugs, or drunk, or very very tired.

By all means, have a different way of incarceration and rehabilitation for these precious little scrotes.  I get the fact that they shouldn’t go in with hardened gangs (although for many it will be a family reunion).  But to make them less responsible for their actions is one of the most fundamental mistakes we can make.

Good parents spend a decade and a bit of their lives teaching their children that actions have consequences, and then you get some wet liberals saying that, no, no… not really, Johnny can’t be held totally responsible until he turns 18.  As if some magical switch gets thrown.


Adult crimes require adult consequences.   Nobody will lock up Taylor for using crayon on a freshly painted wall.  No matter how much the parents want it.



  • Usaywot

    Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man. Very true!

  • Eiselmann

    Andrew if you really cared about kids, then care about the kids who have to deal with a violent 17 year old offender in their midst.

    Here’s the thing Andrew ,any 17 year old facing jail has almost certainly targeted other children before getting on to your ‘liberal wowser radar’ so if you keep them out of jail, all you do is expose other kids to more violence … all you do is create more child victims.

    Hows the view from the Ivory Tower Andrew?

  • Greg M

    It should be lowered to 14. The vast majority of the recent dairy and service station robberies have been committed by 14-17 year old’s in a stolen car.
    So. Car theft followed by numerous traffic offences followed by aggravated robbery and Andrew Becroft thinks that’s not their fault? Lock the mongrels up.

    • papagaya

      Absolutely, we have some of the worst young criminals in the world, and a social welfare system which provides them with abundance from cradle to grave.

      • johnandali

        And that’s why we need to import workers to carry out the most basic tasks. Our young criminals are on the pigs’ back. They rule the roost. Nobody would be brave enough to force them to get jobs.

    • Damon Mudgway

      Feeling amongst a lot of plod is lower the age to 14. Actually the separation of youth and adult courts is a pain of massive proportions. Going by what this light headed thinker is saying is why stop at 18 yrs? Why not make it 30?…you know ’cause boys don’t really don’t grow up till then.

      The system works as well as it can right now. But we all know youth of today have little to no respect for authority.

      In this day and age the only way the age should move is backwards…forwards is too crim hugging at the expense of victims. Unfortunately for Andew he has worked far too long in an environment that cares about the what ifs and why fors of the scumbags, but sadly all too often overlooks the reason the sad sacks are before the courts in the first place.

  • shykiwibloke

    I can empathise to a certain extent.
    After nine years – where’s the RMA reforms? Dunne is a buffoon, but are the Nats going try nothing else?
    After nine years – where’s the promised clean out of red tape?
    What about addressing Immigration fears?

    My perception is this govt has sat on its hands on any contentious issue, safe in the belief there is no alternative. Their own pollster has repeatedly given Trump no chance, and having to change his tune. I hope the govt is listening carefully becuase polls no longer seem to reflect voters anger. Anyone recall Brexit?

  • Hard1

    “all part of nature’s plan”

    We are a bit beyond that now. We have Human laws.

  • ex-JAFA

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the victim is a victim, regardless of the age of the criminal. They’re just as much without a stolen car, a stabbed loved one, a torched house, business takings, etc. whether it’s done by someone who’s 14, 40 or 80. The Justice system should be about getting justice for victims, not explaining away criminals’ actions.

    • johnandali

      The justice system is a lucrative industry. The money comes from representing the accused, and not the victims. Just think of the problems our barristers would face if the victims demanded compensation and long prison sentences with no parole and few opportunities for inmates to appeal their sentences. The reduced incomes for the legal teams would mean that our car dealers would suffer, our best restaurants and coffee shops would suffer, the property market would be adversely affected, and the overseas travel industry would decline. The lawyers and judges are at the top of the food chain. They’re more important than our primary producers. They need to stay at the top to keep the country’s economy booming. Said he, cynically.

  • Nyla

    It wont be long before we will need borstal back for 10 – 17 yr olds … youth go to the youth blocks in prisons, they arent put in with ‘hardened’ crims … but then a 17 yr old can be harder than most the gang members in mobster blocks

    • johnandali

      Another problem is that we have done away with hard labour. Our prisons are very comfortable. The meals are good. The beds are warm. The inmates are secure. There’s nothing to do. No rent to be paid. Prisons are not a deterrent. They’re a holiday.

  • jonno1

    I was gobsmacked that a grown man should hold such a naïve view. Then I read who he was and his credentials and was even more shocked; it’s almost as if his exposure to young criminals has somehow desensitised him to the real world. There is a vast difference between youthful risk-taking and criminal behaviour. Even a child knows the difference between right and wrong.

  • Not Clinically Insane

    Why do we have these “Commissioner” gigs in the first place, let alone fill them with soft huggers like this guy and Devoy?

  • Ross

    What a bunch of nonsense. By the age of 15, I was using my school holidays to get a job and by 17 (early 7th form) I quit school to commence a career. I certainly knew at that age I was responsible, and what was right and wrong. To suggest I wasn’t mature or responsible enough to be an adult in the eyes of the law is farcical.

    How many young kids already taunt their parents or carers because they learn (or are taught) about the age of criminal responsibility and think they’re immune? Increasing the age is a step in the wrong direction – if anything it should be lowered.

  • Damon Mudgway

    ‘New Zealand is being labelled an international embarrassment for continuing to put 17-year-olds on trial as adults.’

    I’m having a little trouble on google finding, who, other than Mr Becroft, is labelling NZ an international embarrassment.

    This is why I continue to have contempt for many of our Judges. They just don’t get it.

    • Chris Bell

      Becroft is a crim hugging fool – how do you think he became children’s commissioner? Gotta love the judges and how they perpetuate the injustice victims face on a daily basis

    • johnandali

      I disagree. We have huge numbers of barristers who make a very good living from defending repeat offenders. It’s an industry. And who is at the top of the industry? The judges.

  • Observer

    I appreciate their argument that the brain is still developing, but following this logic you could say the age should be raised to 25 (when the male brain apparently fully matures!).

    • KatB

      That’s just what I was thinking. Also to suggest we can do some silly stuff when we’re still maturing, is one thing, but we’re talking about some fairly brutal crimes some of these young people commit. Jumping off a roof into a paddling pool is one thing, bashing a dairy owner with a metal pipe is quite a different story and not done simply because of an adolescent brain.

  • Ruahine

    Andrew Becroft has made a very good living out of supporting adolescent criminals.

  • johnandali

    Some years ago when I worked in Corrections, I was tasked with entering criminal histories of inmates from their files onto the computer system. I hadn’t realised that even when they commit crimes when they are children, a record of them was kept on their file. It was almost the norm for inmates to have commenced committing regular crimes from the age of 8 or 9, and the crimes worsened as the child got older, until they finally were sent to jail in their late teens. The re-offending rate would continue unabated until about age 35, when suddenly it became rare to see older inmates in the prison. The older inmates were usually the sex offenders. It’s a pity the judge has obviously never studied the progression of children criminals to adult criminals. Giving them an extra year off going to prison would be a joke.

  • Dave

    Here is an idea, lets provide these innocent young offenders with Andrew Becroft’s address and the address of other similarly thinking do gooders.

    It’s okay Andrew, don’t worry if they rob you, they didn’t mean any harm, they were all 14 years old or under, no harm meant.

  • Andy

    Man, I was living on my own when I was sixteen, and I instinctively knew right from wrong. Time for NZ young men to grow up.