Source: (2002) Social Policy Journal of New Zealand. Issue 19: 76-100.

The diversion of young people from criminal proceedings and the decreased use of custody are key goals of the youth justice system introduced in the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989. This paper uses data from studies of 1003 young people who had family group conferences in 1998 and 1794 young people dealt with by the police in 2000/01 to examine the extent to which these goals are being achieved. In addition, national statistics supplied by the Ministry of Justice are used to compare patterns of youth offending and responses to it from before the Act to 2001. The data show that young people are being diverted and custodial options are less common than before the Act. At the same time, more young people are being made accountable for their offending than in the past. Furthermore, the seriousness of offending has not increased. These findings indicate that even greater use could be made of diversionary options through the police and direct referrals for family group conferences without compromising the extent to which young people are made accountable. Such changes would decrease both the stigmatisation associated with criminal proceedings for young people and the costs of Youth Court proceedings. Savings could be used to provide more programmes for young offenders and better support for families.