Some 17yos to face Youth Court under govt changes

The Government says the Youth Court can have a positive effect on young offenders (File)
The Government says the Youth Court can have a positive effect on young offenders (File)

A major change to the youth justice system will see 17 year olds face different courts depending on the offence, the Government has announced.

Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley made the announcement on Wednesday.

It will mean the young offenders will be dealt with in courts "best suited to their particular case".

While most 17-year-old offenders are considered "lower risk", the few who face more serious charges will head to the adult courts.

These charges include: murder, manslaughter, sexual assaults, aggravated robbery, arson, or serious assaults.

The rest will be dealt with in the Youth Court, where the ministers say interventions are "more targeted and lead to better results".

In the changes set to come into force by 2019, the transfer of young offenders to the adult jurisdiction will be strengthened.

It means serious or repeat offenders between 14-17 are assessed individually about which court they should be facing.

Ms Adams was adamant the Youth Court wasn't the "soft option".

"Instead it offers our best opportunity to break the cycle of reoffending. It's shown that it is effective at reducing crime and holding young offenders to account, by giving them tough but targeted punishments when they commit crime."

She says the changes will mean an estimated 265 fewer 17 year olds will reoffend each year.

Raising the youth justice age was recommended by an independent panel of experts which reported back to Ms Tolley.

It encountered stiff opposition from the NZ Indian Association, which said the move would embolden teens to commit crime.

Before the 2019 switch, resources will be expanded including Police youth aid officers, social workers, family group conferences and programmes targeted at mental health and drug issues.