In a further move to strengthen New Zealand’s youth justice system, Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, today announced that a new criminal offence for ramraid offences will be created – with a maximum sentence of 10 years jail to accompany it.
The Prime Minister said the new offence sends a strong signal that the significant harm caused by ram raids won’t be tolerated, while also providing additional tools to be able to respond to young people involved in the offending.
“The interventions we’ve rolled out over the last 18 months are working for most kids,” said Mr Hipkins.
“But I’ve reached the conclusion that these interventions on their own are not enough to break the cycle of offending for a small, hard-core cohort of young offenders, and that stronger deterrence and consequences are required.
“The system is failing them and we need to do better. They are stuck in a cycle of reoffending and we need to break the cycle.
“So, today we’re creating a new layer of work to combat ram raids.
“Currently, existing offences such as burglary can cover ram-raids. However, this doesn’t always address the gaps we are seeing in the system, relating to repeat child offenders, whose age and offending doesn’t meet the criteria for the Youth Court.”
The Prime Minister said enabling 12 and 13 year olds who carry out ram-raids to be charged in the Youth Court will give Police and Oranga Tamariki a wider range of options to deal with child offenders that are more intensive, while the new offence sends a clear signal to those who commit ram raids that there will be serious consequences.
It will also apply to passengers in the ram-raid vehicle if they enter the shop to steal or cause damage, he said.
“At a practical level, it means 12 and 13 year olds can be charged in the Youth Court, giving Police the ability to apply for bail conditions or for the offenders to be held in the custody of Oranga Tamariki.”
“This will mean the Police and the Courts will have more tools to stop repeat young offenders from getting back on the street,” the PM said.
Justice Minister Kiri Allan said: “We must increase the accountability of young offenders, while continuing to break the cycle of crime and get these young people back into school, training and work.
“It is simply not good enough that some New Zealanders are going to work in fear. This needs to change, and our message to any young person that commits a ram raid is simple – there will be consequences for your actions.
“Without Police having the jurisdiction to file a charge in Youth Court for ram raid offending for children of this age, there are fewer interventions available that could make a more significant difference to stop repeat offending, provide the necessary support and hold them to account for their actions.”
Minister Allan said gaps had arisen for children under 14 who are involved in ram-raids, with their offending behaviour not meeting the threshold for the Youth Court.
“As a result, children and young people do not always receive responses with the right level of immediacy, intensity, or duration to address their needs and the underlying factors that contribute to offending,” she said.
“While children and young people who commit these crimes must be held to account, the evidence is also clear that intervening early and intensively is the best way to break the cycle and prevent further victimisation.
“Building on what works, the ‘Circuit Breaker’ fast track intervention programme will be expanded even further after proving successful in its first four locations.”
Under the programme, instead of a child being placed back in the community with little immediate support, their information is shared with Oranga Tamariki within 24 hours and an agreed plan on how to deal with and support the young person confirmed in 48 hours in collaboration with community groups.
“It’s already been rolled out in South and West Auckland, Auckland City, Hamilton, and Christchurch, with almost 75% of children not re-offending. Rotorua, Whangārei, Wellington, and Dunedin will now be considered as new locations,” the Minister said.
“In addition, a new intensive and long-term programme will be created for a small group of recidivist young offenders to stop the cycle of crime.”
The programme – ‘Enhanced Fast Track’ – will see up to 60 of the most prolific young offenders and their families assigned an intensive support social worker to develop an immediate plan that could include mentoring, alcohol/drug treatment, support to navigated and access the housing and education systems, mental health support, and cultural support.
“People deserve to feel safe in their workplaces and these programmes are designed to prevent further victimisation by getting in and breaking the cycle for a young offender,” Mr Hipkins said.
“As a Government we are committed to looking at the evidence and doing what works. This is a proven approach that will keep the public safe and prevent children and young people from heading further into a life of crime,” he said.