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Youth Justice: The New Zealand Experience Past Lessons and Future Challenges

Becroft, Andrew
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Paper presented at the “Juvenile Justice: From Lessons of the Past to a Road for the Future” conference held on December 1-2, 2003, in Sydney, Australia. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Downloaded 3 May 2004.

New Zealand’s juvenile justice policy intends to ensure that children and youth who offend are held accountable for their offending and that they are dealt with in ways that eliminate reoffending and help them develop into “good citizens.” It emphasizes diversion from formal court processing and custody for all but the most serious offenses. The “linchpin” of the juvenile justice system is the family group conference, which is based on the Maori custom of a collective response to individual violations of community values. Families are central to all the decisionmaking processes that involve their children, and the offending youth have a voice in the decisions regarding the response to their offending. Victims have a key role in negotiations over possible penalties for juvenile offenders in holding them accountable for their offending. A healing process for both offender and victim is emphasized. Some weaknesses of the New Zealand model are insufficient secure residential beds for juveniles; insufficient specialist Youth Aid Police; a lack of sound statistical information; systemic failings in Child, Youth, and Family Services; the inadequacies of “top-end” youth court sentences; lack of attention to serious juvenile offenders; lack of an effective national juvenile justice leadership structure; and lack of a coordinated early intervention strategy. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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