Act clearly wants to nurture hate and division in its pursuit of political support. And hot on its suggestion that young offenders who commit serious offences should be forced to wear ankle bracelets they now say that their support for increasing the age for youth court appearances to 18 was wrong and they now wish to bring it back to 17.
The change to the Oranga Tamariki Act was passed by the National Government in 2017 and Act supported it. Interestingly Labour voted against the law change but for unrelated reasons.
Act leader David Seymour was interviewed yesterday by Lisa Owen. He conceded that Act supported the law change but said that this was because they were told that the worst offenders would still go before the courts. He then referred to a case where a 17 year old that beat a 78 year old to within an inch of his life with his shins sticking through his skin went through the Youth Justice system despite the protestations of the police prosecutor. His conclusion was that the system was failing.
To his third point Lisa Owen was naughty and quoted actual facts to Seymour. Like the April 2023 Youth Justice Indicators Summary report which concluded:
There have been encouraging long-term trends for most indicators between 2011/12 and 2021/22. These include:
- The overall offending rates for children and young people decreased by 63% and 64%, respectively.
- The number of children and young people whose offending was serious enough to lead to a family group conference (FGC) or court action decreased by 55% and 59%, respectively.
- The rate of Youth Court appearances decreased by 65%.
- The number of children and young people remanded in custody decreased by 36%.
Seymour responded by counter facts and a claim that the victim should be focused on. His facts should be subject to the accuracy of his recollection of when the law was changed, which was wrong.
The case he is referring to appears to be this one. Usually if a 17 year old is charged with a serious offence, which includes murder, manslaughter or a schedule 1A offence including aggravated burglary as in this case the charge is automatically transferred to the District Court. Seventeen year olds who commit the most serious types of offences are dealt with by the District Court although there is an intricacy which means this is not inevitable.
The law is complicated. Law is like that. In the case Seymour refers to it appears that because the 17 year old was jointly charged with a 16 year old and the Crown wanted one trial, not two, the case stayed in the Youth Court. But for this the 17 year old would have been dealt with by the District Court given the seriousness of the charge that he faced.
Seymour’s implication that all 17 year olds charged with serious offending such as aggravated burglary are dealt with in the Youth Court is disingenuous to put it mildly.
Seymour does not care about the evidence or the expert advice which suggests that 17 year olds should be dealt with in a more therapeutic way. Or that our obligations under the United Nations Convention of the rights of the Child, which New Zealand signed up to in 1993, which states that the age of 18 should be the upper age for juvenile justice.
So there are lots of holes to pick here. Not that this is of Act’s concern. They just want old people salivating at the suggestion that there are too many young people performing horrendous acts and we should lock them all up and subject them to cruel and unusual punishment. I can confidently state that no one involved in Youth Justice will vote for Act but these people are not their target market.
The world is a complex place and there are all sorts of nuances that make the policy designed for talk back radio almost inevitably the wrong one. Some parties do not care and will promise to wreak havoc as long as there is political advantage to gain. Act is clearly one of those parties.