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escalating violence in our community
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Sensible Sentencing Trust
(Date : July 2006)
2.2 The Sensible Sentencing Trust request to be heard in support of this submission.
2.3 The address for correspondence in relation to this submission is as follows:
Sensible Sentencing Trust
P O Box 701
Phone: (06) 8355521
or Mobile 027 2487919
Current policies are failing dramatically in the social areas and dramatically failing in the area of family. As society we are failing our children with many ending up before the Courts.
The fact that we are even discussing lowering the age of criminal responsibility is an acknowledgment that social policy has failed and the time has come to take a look at the nature of the state and its relationship to the family. It was once adequate for the state simply to provide for the family’s physical protection and the family was left to care for itself. However the state has replaced the breadwinner in many homes producing single parent families and an escalation in crime.
The cross-party committee that has been formed in the wake of the death of the Kahui twins is further evidence of disastrous social experiment gone wrong. But will this committee simply become another talk-fest? The reality is if the Kahu twins had not been murdered they would have ended up inextricably entwined in our Criminal justice system later in life.
As a nation we need to take control and resolve to tackle some really hard problems – such as lowering the age of criminal responsibility – head on.
New Zealand is experiencing a fourty- year crime epidemic and children have been particularly badly hit- often literally- but regardless of other circumstances contributing to the offending it is time society took stronger measures to protect itself against these serious young offenders.
It is hoped that this will be a wake up call for the liberal sector of society that has promoted the disastrous social experiment that has destroyed the family unit, the one essential ingredient in any well adjusted society.
The time for talk is over and the time for action is now, lowering the age of criminal responsibility is a beginning and must be implemented with other comprehensive policies to ensure a reduction in youth offending.
We support the Young Offenders bill as we believe it will ensure that the hard core recidivist young offenders who have been through the current youth system will ultimately be held accountable for their crimes and that society took stronger measures to protect itself against young offenders.
3.2 Dysfunctional Families :
A review of the age of criminal responsibility must not be in isolation, such a review must include an inquiry into the role and suggested remedy of dysfunctional families. It is time parents accepted their role in their children’s behaviour – their role as part of the problem - and their role as part of the solution.
3.3 Family Group Conferences
...are another disaster, the idea may have been well-meaning but in reality they have been hi-jacked by the criminal fraternity and are a complete and utter farce that is making a mockery of our justice system.
The conference is normally held as close as possible to the offenders residence to cause as little disruption to their lives, the victims are often required to travel, even though the victims is supposed to be consulted this rarely happens.
A typical family group conference will have the offender or offenders and their support people normally between 6-10, lawyers for the offenders [ one for each] the victim and their support person. The offender’s family treats it as a special occasion and often bring KFC or McDonalds and everything that goes with it.
Lawyers try to pressure victims to accept the terms most advantageous to the offender and will not allow offenders to write letters of apology or remorse in cast they incriminate themselves.
A dismal failure without any real consequences or accountability shown by offender
3.4 Restorative Justice Conferences :
While the principle and concept of restorative justice is sound the pre-sentence restorative justice model N Z has chosen to adopt has the potential to destroy the publics confidence entirely. We believe N Z should revert to the post-sentence model and progress slowly from that point.
3.5 Youth Recidivism:
Youth offending now equates to 22% of total offending yet only 20% of that actually comes to the Youth Court with the balance being dealt with by various diversion schemes. Only 5% of these are serious hard core offenders and it is this 5% that are causing most of the serious crime and many continue to re-offend. Most are from dysfunctional families, have drug and alcohol addictions, psychological problems and display no remorse – and most are not even enrolled in school.
Lowering the age of criminal responsibility is the best option to protect the public from them.
3.4 Youth Inside the Gangs.
It is a well known fact that gangs are using young people to commit crimes due to the fact that they are unlikely to be held accountable, from the gangs point of view kids are simply a more productive way of committing crime.
4.1 Age of Responsibility be lowered to 12. Lowering the age of responsibility ensures youth offenders know that breaking the law will have real consequences.
4.2 Overhaul Family Group Conference system. Family group conferences must only be used for first time non-violent – non-sexual offenders and they must be genuinely victim focused with accurate records kept and no lawyers present unless the victim requires one.
4.3 Violent and / or sexual offenders. This is the category of offender the community must be protected from, lowering the age of criminal responsibility will target this group.
4.4. Repeat non-violent offenders. The military style courses that Stephen Boxer of Pro-active Adventures is currently operating should be cloned or grown for this category of offender.
4.5 The gang influence on young people must be stopped. Anyone caught soliciting young people for a crime should be prosecuted and the sentence carry a minimum sentence of 5 years.
4.6 Restorative Justice. We recommend that restorative justice be used only post-sentence and only if the victim wishes. This is the way the NSW model operates and seems to be having the desired result.
This Bill is not a solution on its own but it is a very necessary beginning to a very large problem. Most of the young offenders committing these crimes are illiterate, making rehabilitation and employment opportunities difficult if not impossible.
The Sensible Sentencing Trust recommends an urgent review of our education system to discover why so many young people have a poor education, no pride in themselves or their country and are turning to a life of crime.
Other submissions were made as follows;
From Peter Jenkins