Labour urges Govt to raise Youth Court age


Labour is urging the Government to raise the age at which teenagers can be tried by the Youth Court.

The current age is 17, but under changes proposed in a report to Cabinet some as old as 19 could, at a judge's discretion, be put through the Youth Court instead of adult courts.

Labour's youth and justice issues spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says the party has been battling to introduce the change since Labour was last in government.

Ms Ardern says the perception that the Youth Court is less intensive is wrong and ill-informed. 

"Actually the Youth Court is much more confrontational," says Ms Ardern.

"They must confront their families, often their victims and in the Rangatahi (marae-based) court their kuia or kaumātua."

Ms Arden also says offenders who go through the Youth Court are better monitored and have better outcomes.

Minister for Social Development Anne Tolley told The Nation programme this morning that Cabinet is taking a "cautious" approach to the idea. She says it could be an effective preventative measure.

"Everything we can do to keep them out of the justice system at a young age has long-term effects both for them and their families, but also for the taxpayer," said Ms Tolley.

The Minister said she understands the concerns of people affected by youth crimes adding Cabinet is consulting with victims.

She added that if a crime is severe enough it will still be tried in an adult court as it happens now.