Demand grows for special court after it slashes reoffending 66pct

A special court in Auckland is being praised for helping dramatically reduce reoffending rates. 

The Court of New Beginnings targets the causes of criminal behaviour. It works to help defendants who are often homeless and struggling with mental health issues.

Since it was established in 2010, it's been credited with a 66 percent drop in reoffending rates among those who've been through the court.

It works by withholding sentencing, instead setting a plan for offenders that holds them accountable and treats the underlying cause of the offending. Regular reviews are held, with the offender required to comply with their goals to stay in the specialist court system.

It's also reducing homelessness. Out of a sample of 16 homeless offenders in the system, only three were still without a home six months after their appearance.

The New Beginnings court is an exception to the norm because it only sits for one half-day a month and only in Auckland. 

A similar court is being run out of Wellington as well.

Former judge Sir Ron Young wants to see more specialist courts like in the United States, where more than 300 similar ones are operating.

"New Zealand in this area is not first, second or even twenty-third to do this. These courts have been in the States for 30 years."

With the Department of Corrections struggling to curb recidivist offending, calls are growing for more special courts around New Zealand.


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