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Focus on welfare: The importance of personal information to youth justice decisions in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Cleland, Alison
June 4, 2015

Source: (2012) New Zealand Law Review. 2012(4):573-603.

Aotearoa/New Zealand’s youth justice system is highly regarded internationally. The restorative justice process at the heart of the system, the Family Group Conference, is widely admired. While the restorative aspects of the system are important, it is argued here that the ability of the system and its personnel to consider the welfare of young people who offend is a key strength of Aotearoa’s youth justice response. This article argues that consideration of welfare requires engagement with young people’s personal information. Exploration of the history and structure of the relevant legislation shows that welfare was and is a key aspect of the system. Analysis of empirical data from interviews with youth justice personnel reveals a sophisticated understanding of the importance of personal information in responding to young people in ways that will promote their welfare. The article then suggests that given the system’s existing focus on welfare, it should be well placed to accommodate the new youth justice principle, which requires the causes of offending to be addressed. Since these causes lie mostly in young people’s circumstances, the key to addressing causes will be found in their personal information. Should the system achieve this additional accommodation of young people’s welfare, Aotearoa/New Zealand will have a further reason to be regarded as a world leader in youth justice practice. (author’s abstract)


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