If kids do adult crimes, they need to face adult consequences


The new Children’s Commissioner is calling for 17-year-old offenders to be dealt with in the youth justice system.

Former Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft has just finished his first week in the new position, after replacing Russell Wills.

Currently 17-year-old offenders are sentenced as adults.

Speaking on TVNZ’s Q&A on Sunday, the new commissioner said including 17-year-olds in the youth justice system would mean the majority of minor to moderate offenders could be dealt with “collaboratively” in the community.

In May, the government announced a law change as part of an overhaul of Child, Youth and Family, to allow vulnerable children to remain in care until at least the age of 18.

However, the commissioner said it didn’t make sense to raise the age of care and not raise the youth justice age, because it was the “same kids” being dealt with in both systems.

“We can’t cut them in half and say for care and protection purposes you’re 18, but for justice you’re 17.”

It was a myth the youth justice system wasn’t tough when it needed to be, he said.

If necessary, 17-year-old offenders would be dealt with severely in the youth justice system, and the country needed to have confidence in that, he said.

If a 16-year-old steals some lollies from the dairy, he can go to youth court. If he walks in holding a knife and demands money, then he can go to a normal court.

There is absolutely no point in cuddling teenage criminals as if their behaviour was somehow excusable due to their youth. A couple of teenagers did an aggravated robbery of tourists in Kaitaka a few months ago. They may be young, but these aren’t children.

There is absolutely every difference between kids in care and kids who are already doing adult crimes, and to draw a comparison is to play with words. In one case, the teenager needs protection from society. In the other, society needs protection from the teenager.


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