Sunday, April 14, 2024

Court is in for young adult review

The first independent evaluation of the Young Adult List has been completed, the Ministry of Justice has revealed.

Results from the pilot evaluation highlight the success of the judicial-led initiative since its launch in the Porirua District Court in March 2020, the Ministry said.

The Young Adult List is a specialist court initiative that adjusts the traditional District Court process to allow for special characteristics that limit executive functioning (thinking, memory and focus) that are prevalent amongst young adults.

The new approach uses plain language in the courtroom, improved information for judges and brings local agencies and community services into the court. That means criminal court participants aged 18 to 25 years, their whānau and supporters can more easily understand what’s happening and better engage when they appear in court.

Evaluation interviews were held with 30 defendants who went through the Young Adult List court process, and 25 defendants from a District Court comparable in size and volumes to Porirua. The results showed that Young Adult List participants were:

  • more likely to say they could clearly hear and understand the judge, and say the judge had shown them respect;
  • twice as likely to say their court experience had made them think more deeply about their future and make some positive changes in their life; and
  • more likely to have a support person with them, who was acknowledged by the judge.

“The findings suggest the Young Adult List is achieving its objectives of ensuring young adults can fully engage and participate in court, understand the implications of each stage in the process, and are offered interventions that can help them move away from offending and towards more positive life paths,” the Ministry said in a statement.

One Young Adult List participant commented:

“It was just one of those things that helped me switch my life around I guess, giving me that chance. I could have gone downhill from there, getting a conviction… and not be able to get jobs and stuff like. Like I feel like it’s just a sign, a part of me, that [I] can do better.”

The Ministry is currently reviewing recommendations for improvement identified through the evaluation to determine how to further strengthen the Young Adult List model. 

It said the findings strengthen the Ministry’s confidence in the Young Adult List model as it looks to expand the model in other District Courts. Additionally, the District Court Heads of Bench have acknowledged the Young Adult List as a key pillar of Te Ao Mārama, the vision for the future of the District Court. Many of the best practice approaches in the Young Adult List – such as improving information for judges, using plain language, and inviting local agencies and community services into the court – are also key components of the Te Ao Mārama model.

Read the Young Adult List evaluation report [PDF, 569 KB]

Read more about the Young Adult List

Read more about Te Ao Marama

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