Concern about Young Offenders’ Bill
The Children’s Commissioner, Dr Cindy Kiro, has spoken
out against the proposed Young Offenders (Serious Crimes) Bill which had
it’s first reading in Parliament on Wednesday. “I have looked at the
Bill and have serious concerns about its impact if passed into law,”
said Dr Kiro.
“The current public perception of the Bill is that its
intention is to reduce the age at which young offenders can be
prosecuted in the criminal courts from 14 to 12. However in its current
form, the Bill reduces that age to 10 for virtually all criminal
The legislation would mean that if for any offence
where the maximum penalty is imprisonment for a term of not less than 3
months or a fine of not less than $2,000 i.e. for almost all offences,
the charge would have to be laid in the adult court. This removes from
the Youth Court jurisdiction over virtually all criminal offences with
which a young person or child can be charged. ” “The effect of this
would be that a young person charged with stealing a litre of ice-cream
would be dealt with next to adult criminals in the District Court.
This sort of over-reaction to offending by a young
person and their possible placement in a prison-like environment can
only lead to an increased likelihood of future offending by these young
people and certainly does nothing to rehabilitate or improve outcomes
for themselves or society. This is completely unacceptable as well as
being in breach of a number of international conventions including the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
“There must be public debate and clarification of the
intention of the Bill and its impact. I will be seeking an independent
legal opinion on the purpose and intent of the Bill. We owe it to your
children to protect them and guide them to become responsible adults.
This is not the way to deal with youth offending.
All of the youth justice literature tells us that we
basically have a good system with the Children, Young Persons and Their
Families Act, we need to tighten up some parts of it, but punishing
children of 10 years for minor offences or adopting such a vengeful
approach will not help, “Dr Kiro said.
Commissioner For Children
31 March 2006