1 Jul 2019

First 17-year-old defendant appears before Youth Court

2:23 pm on 1 July 2019

A judge has told a young offender he is privileged to be the first 17-year-old to appear in the Youth Court.

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Photo: RNZ Insight

From today, the court can now consider offending by 17 year olds, with the exception of serious offending.

It previously dealt with offending by young people aged 14 to 16 and in certain serious circumstances 12 and 13.

What was believed to be the first 17-year-old defendant in the country to appear before the Youth Court has done so in Nelson today, on what was described as minor to moderate charges

Judge David Ruth told him that the courts realised that young people made mistakes.

"We try to put it right so you won't do it again - that's what's changed," Judge Ruth said.

Lawyer John Sandston said the aim was to keep as many young people in this court as possible, which was a good thing for youth.

"Totally... I bump into people quite frequently who were my youth court clients and it turned their lives around having intensive wrap-around help, rather than going into the district court."

Mr Sandston said the Youth Court systems got bad press at times but he considered it to be world-leading.

Judge Ruth remanded the youth on bail and instructed him to attend a family group conference ordered by the court.

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