College students’ youth justice report catches Children’s Commissioner’s eye


Students from St Thomas of Canterbury College in Christchurch have written a report that has caught the attention of the Commissioner for Children, Judge Andrew Becroft.

The report, released at the Nga Hau E Wha National marae on Wednesday, looked at how those aged between 10 and 16 are faring when they fall foul of the law.

Part of an annual project, the National Youth Custody Index, the report uses the Official Information Act to compile a snapshot of how well the justice system is doing in dealing with young people.

The research relies on responses from government departments and the police to Official Information Act requests.

It has been carried out for the past four years and most organisations have been forthcoming with the requested information.

The report found the number of children charged in court increased by 6 percent last year, compared to the year before.

While the number of young European people in court was down 1 percent, there has been a 9 percent rise for Māori over the 12 months.

The students also have uncovered the practice of keeping youth in police cells, and the disproportionate number of Māori youth before the courts.

Becroft, who attended the launch of the report, has described the state of youth detention in New Zealand “a crisis”.

“The formalised option of remand to an adult police cell, which will always be kept separate and in solitary confinement, sometimes with the light on for 24 hours, poor sanitation – that option is simply unacceptable.”

Also of particular concern to St Thomas College students was the rising number of Māori teenagers passing through the courts.

“It’s been rising over the last 10 years, and it keeps rising. Last year it rose nine per cent, and now it’s sitting at about 64 per cent,” St Thomas student Te Aotahi Rice-Edwards said.


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