13 Aug 2017

PM pledges to send young criminals to military camp

5:03 pm on 13 August 2017

National is promising to send hardened youth criminals to a training academy at the Waiouru Military Camp.

Prime Minister Bill English

Bill English. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The party said it would introduce a 'Young Serious Offender' classification for a small group of about 150 young people who have shown no willingness or ability to change their criminal behaviour.

Fifty of them would be sent to an army organised Waiouru training camp each year.

But opposition parties say it's a cynical move which turns military service into a punishment, and reeks of a government that's run out of ideas.

Releasing National's law and order policy today, leader Bill English said those who did not complete the course would serve out their sentence in an adult prison.

"These are the toughest kids with the worst records who have taken almost no notice of their obligations to the community...

"It's time that with this one percent of all the offenders, we close in on them a bit and they get a more serious message that they need to start behaving responsibly - if they do that, they get the support."

National's Justice spokesperson Amy Adams said the 'Young Serious Offender' classification would see the offenders dealt with in ways that better reflected the seriousness of their crimes.

She said the Young Serious Offenders classification would be reserved for the 150 offenders between the ages 14 and 17, who commit a large number of serious offences.

That group will be subject to different sentencing, monitoring and enforcement rules, and 50 of them would be sent each year to the Waiouru training camp.

"New Zealand soldiers are world-renowned for their discipline and work ethic, they're exactly the kind of role models that we think will have a positive impact on the lives of serious young offenders who too often have had no serious role models in their lives," said Ms Adams.

She said a contestable fund of $30 million, over four years, would be available to community groups focused on reducing youth offending.

She said the academy would address problems such as addiction or literacy.

Amy Adams

National's Justice spokesperson Amy Adams. Photo: RNZ

National also wants to tighten bail requirements, increase the use of electronic monitoring and remove the ability for serious offenders to be released early from youth justice facilities.

It would also introduce instant infringement notices for the parents of children under 14 walking the streets between midnight and 5am.

Police Minister Paula Bennett said they want to hold parents to account and there are some families which she described as "third generational crime families".

"Their parents actually lie for 13-year-olds when police turn up there at three o'clock in the morning because they've just suspected them of doing something wrong, so they do need to be held to account at some level."

'Boot camp' old idea say Labour and NZ First

The Labour Party is describing National's plan to send what it describes as hardened youth criminals, to an army boot camp, as a gimmick.

Labour's justice spokesperson, Andrew Little, said the policy was a desperate, headline-grabbing response to problems the government had created.

"This is an admission of failure by this government, they last announced a policy like this in 2009, eight years on we've got the same thing reheated.

"Since then we've had the worst homelessness in the developed world, we've got falling incomes, growing poverty, look this is just chickens coming home to roost."

Mr Little said boot camps did not work and just turned young criminals into fit young criminals.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the policy was a poor incarnation of an idea that had been floated - and rejected - before.

"They're coming out with a traditional, old idea, but it's got the wrong character to it. It's not about education and rehabilitation, it's mainly about some boot camp.

"When we'd put a bill up on youth education training and employment using the army, the National government opposed it, so that tells you how much integrity they have behind their thoughts on this matter."

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