30 Aug 2022

Lack of consequences leading to a 'tsunami' of youth crime, says National

6:56 am on 30 August 2022

The National Party says a lack of consequences for young offenders is causing a "tsunami" of youth crime.

National MP Mark Mitchell

The National Party's police spokesperson Mark Mitchell says the criminal justice system needs to be able to respond to the lack of consequences for youth offenders. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The party said it was dismayed to see prosecutions of young offenders declining at a time when youth crime seemed to be increasing.

National's police spokesperson Mark Mitchell told Morning Report the youth justice system needed to implement a full range of tools to stop repeat offending.

"Without a doubt youth crime is increasing," he said.

Mitchell said he recently spoke with a school principal in Christchurch who was dealing with an increase in truancy and other issues in primary school-aged children.

"He said that the way to deal with that - especially with young men - is to have positive male role models in their lives and this is a big driver and part of the problem."

Mitchell said investment needed to be put into support for young people to stop them getting into trouble in the first place.

Organisations like Warkworth-based Springboard, which provided support and male role models to "young guys" whose lives were "starting to get off the tracks" were helping to address some of these issues, Mitchell said, and the government also had a role to play.

He wasn't able to say whether youth crime in Warkworth had decreased.

"Certainly [Springboard have] been responsible for ensuring that there hasn't been an increase in - or even a bigger increase in - youth crime."

Mitchell said the criminal justice system needed to be able to respond to the lack of consequences for youth offenders that had led to "a tsunami of youth offending".

"Having the same moral compass and the same values that we had when we grew up are just as relevant today as what they were 30 or 40 years ago."

Mitchell said the government should do more to stop repeat offending, using National MP Sam Uffindell as an example of someone who had "turned his life around".

"There were consequences for [Uffindell's behaviour]; he was asked to leave the school that he was at, so he had to face consequences and then he had to turn his life around and decide that he wasn't going to engage in that type of behaviour," Mitchell said.

"Had he kept engaging in that type of behaviour, had he decided to start participating in ram raids and if he'd become a recidivist violent offender then he would've faced serious consequences inside our criminal justice system, but he didn't, he turned his life around."

But Carly Laughton, a youth worker in Auckland, said she believed the current focus on youth offending had been "brought to the forefront by the media" and it was "naive" of National to think interventions didn't already exist.

"I do think it's a relatively naive opinion really, the fact that they think that there aren't interventions that are already in place," she told Morning Report.

"We're really lucky to have some really amazing police aid officers in Auckland in particular and the programmes that they're running, they really work for young people," she said.

"I've seen some young people really turn their lives around with concentrated attention from the teams they have in those spaces."

Laughton said the fact some of the youth offenders in the news recently were as young as 9 or 10, showed the need for there to be a "Whānau Ora-approach".

"It really paints a picture of the fact that this is a deep-seated problem," she said.

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