Youth offending rates plunge, Ministry of Justice finds

by Sol Dolor07 Sep 2019

Youth offending rates have plunged, according to a report published by the Ministry of Justice.

Among the key findings of the second Youth Justice Indicators Summary Report, which covered the period from 2010 to 2018, is that there have been major reductions in the number of children aged 10 to 13 and young people aged 14 to 16 who have offended. Among those aged 10 to 13, offenders decreased to 2,330 from 5,012. For those aged 14 to 16, the figure dropped to 5,623 from 13,832.

The report also found that the offending rate, which measures the proportion who offend compared to the relative population, declined by 55% and 58% for children and young people, respectively.

The ministry also said that offending rates for all three main ethnic groups more than halved and that the rate of Youth Court appearances decreased by 51%.

The drop in offending for those aged 10 to 13 was biggest for the European and other category, which recorded a reduction of 68%. For the Māori category, a drop of 55% was recorded. The offending rate for Pasifika children almost halved, the ministry said.

For those aged 14 to 16, the biggest reduction in offending was also reported for the European and other category, which tallied a cut of 71%. Reductions of 64% and 56%, respectively, were found for the Pacific and Māori categories.

The drop continues the trend first reported in the inaugural Youth Justice Indicators Summary Report, which covered the period from 2009 to 2017.

Associate Minister of Justice Hon Aupito William Sio, said that the reports help those involved in the youth justice system to better understand the issues and trends in the system.

“The report provides an insight into the performance of the youth justice system and builds on 14 years of work by government agencies to develop a statistical process to monitor the performance of the youth justice system. Both the report and the dataset will evolve over time to reflect emerging issues, priorities and availability of useful quality data, which includes changes this year to the police dataset, leading to a later release date of this report,” he said.

He said that the information in the reports contribute to the discussion and action about how best to hold young people who offend to account, while recognising their needs and vulnerability, and making a positive difference to their lives. While the drops in offending rate for Māori young people trail behind non-Māori, there are silver linings, Sio says there are silver linings.

“While the rate of offending by Māori young people has not reduced at the same rate as non-Māori, it should be noted that substantial gains have been made in reducing the number of Māori youth in the justice system, with 3,400 fewer young Māori in the youth justice system in 2018 compared to 2010 (a 56% drop),” he said.

Sio also noted that a similar trend for young Māori appearing in the Youth Court has been recorded. There were almost 1,200 fewer young Māori who appeared in the Youth Court over the same period, a reduction of 55%.

Sio also said that there are still areas to further reduce youth offending.

“For example, while overall offending has reduced, serious crime has not fallen to the same extent as minor to moderate crime, so more serious crime now makes up a larger proportion of all offending by children and young people than previously. However, the numbers of children and young people involved in more serious offending has dropped markedly since 2010, a 44% reduction. This means there are far fewer victims of serious youth offending,” he said.

The country’s youth justice system was extended on 1 July to include most 17-year-olds who offend. Two new Youth Court judges will be appointed after a cap on the number of District Court judges has been lifted.

“The government’s criminal justice reform program, Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata, will continue to look at how better justice outcomes can be achieved by focussing on prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration, especially Māori and young people,” Sio said.