Judge warns of violent young girls

Brazen and streetwise teenage girls are responsible for an increasing share of the violent crime in New Zealand, a senior judge says.

Authorities are worried that the culprits � girls mainly aged between 14 and 16 � are sexually experienced beyond their years, lack boundaries and have little respect for other people or their property.

Their crimes tend to involve street robberies, where they attack people to get their hands on cellphones, make-up, clothing and other items.

This week Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft told The Press that 20 per cent of youth crime was now committed by females, compared with 15% two years ago.

"What we're seeing is more violence by young girls ... you get 16-year-olds with the life experience of a 30-year-old involved in things like prostitution and substance abuse," the judge said.

Recent violent crimes committed by young girls include:

An attack on a young Christchurch woman where she was scratched and punched by a teenage girl for her cellphone.

A street attack where a teenage girl was encouraged to bash her victim by her friends.

A series of attacks late last year by teenage girls in Christchurch who were taking turns to commit violent street robberies.

Street criminals and prostitutes Rochelle "Roach" Chapman and Genesis White and their friends terrorised central Christchurch until a car accident last year ended Chapman's life and left White in a vegetative state.

An assault on two 13-year-old girls where six females aged between 14 and 16 stalked them from Hornby to the city on buses then viciously attacked them in Colombo Street in 2003.

The murder of Waitara grandfather Kenneth Pigott, who was bashed over the head with a hammer by three teenage girls, then dumped in a river, in 2002.

The officer in charge of Christchurch's police Youth Aid section, Jim Read, said girls involved in violent crime "generally came from pretty dysfunctional backgrounds", with many experiencing violence in the home or sexual abuse.

Many of these teenage terrors, aged between 14 and 16, were involved in prostitution and had experiences far beyond their years, he said.

Read attributed the rise in violent offending by females to "the girls catching up with the boys".

"Women have become stronger in general, which is a good thing, but with positive parts of equality also come some negative ones."

Read said female youths tended to grow out of violent crime faster than their male counterparts.

"My observation is that as they get a bit older they tend to grow out of it, they get some more responsibilities like having a baby or get some more common sense," he said.

Child, Youth and Family Te Puna Wai o Tuhinapo youth justice residence manager Shirley Johnson said the criminal behaviour of young males and females differed.

The behaviour of girls who ended up in secure units tended to spiral out of control suddenly after they became involved in a negative environment, whereas boys' criminal behaviour tended to be part of a progressively worsening tendency.

Youth and Cultural Development manager Anni Watkin said she was at a loss to explain the increase in violent crime by young women.

Watkin said in recent months there had been several "vicious attacks" in Christchurch by teenage girls that had left the victims badly shaken and scared to go out in public.

Teenage perpetrators did not always come from a dysfunctional homes. One of the young girls who had badly bashed another woman came from a respectable high-income family.

Kim Thomas
7 October 2005,2106,3435479a11,00.html


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