Resourcing critical to changes in Youth Justice age
The New Zealand Police Association says it is vital that the Government adequately resource its decision to extend the youth justice system to include lower-risk 17-year-old offenders.
Earlier this year the Association surveyed its members on the prospect of extending the youth justice age from 16 to 17.
Association President Chris Cahill says 73% of police opposed such a move, and, narrowed down to Youth Aid officers at the frontline of juvenile offending, 55% were against the change. Youth Aid officers who did support extending the age did so on the proviso that it could only happen with additional resourcing.
“Police need to be able to do their job as best they can at all levels of offending, and as the country knows, many areas of policing are currently stretched to breaking point” Mr Cahill says.
“The last thing we need is any increase in our workload and we are concerned that this move is based on youth court numbers and not the myriad of other ways Youth Aid officers work to keep the majority of child/youth offenders out of any courtroom.
“The arrest and interview process for a child/youth offender is a much more complex and often time consuming process than for an adult.”
Mr Cahill accepts the policy move is focussed on what the Government refers to as “lower-risk 17-year-olds”, and says that is more acceptable to the Association membership than a wholesale extension of the youth justice age.
“Police are also very aware of the issues that arise when young people are placed in adult prisons, that at 17 they are still often very immature, and that the New Zealand government has seen the need to be in line with other similar jurisdictions and the United Nations” Mr Cahill says.
“It appears the Government has moved to address international criticism. The Association now awaits the details of how the Government will address the needs of the frontline staff and services to avoid domestic criticism.”