The improvement has not been as significant for some groups
Youth offending has declined from 2010 to 2017, data from the Ministry of Justice show.
There were large reductions in the number of children aged 10 to 13 and young people aged 14 to 16 who committed offences in the period, according to the latest “Youth Justice Indicators Summary Report” released by Associate Justice Minister Aupito William Sio.
There were 2,109 children aged 10 to 13 who offended in 2017, down 59% from 5,139 in 2010. For teens aged 14 to 16, offending in 2017 dropped 63% to 5,188 from 14,183 in 2010.
Youth Court appearances have also dropped 38%, according to the data. There was also a significant cut in the number of young people aged 14 to 16 whose offending was serious enough to lead to a family group conference or to court action. These offenses dropped 58% to 2,206 from 4,860.
The youth justice system has been dealing with a different mix of young people who offend and the types of offences committed. While both minor and serious crimes have dropped, minor crimes have decreased more, which has pushed serious crimes to make up a larger proportion of all youth offending.
As a result, the proportion of young people who appeared in Youth Court increased 27% over the eight-year period. “The data highlights that young people who offend often have complex problems, which can be among the underlying causes of their offending,” the report said.
The report shows that the degree of improvement has not been as significant for certain groups, particularly for young Māori.
“For example, the reduction in the offending rate for young people since 2009/10 has been much higher for European/Other (74%) than for Pasifika (61%) and Māori (59%). Also, between 2014/15 and 2016/17, the Youth Court appearance rate for Māori increased by 23%, while the rate for non-Māori reduced by 12% in comparison,” the report said.
Another area for improvement is the number of prosecuted young people who were remanded in custody, which changed very little between 2011 and 2017. This is despite the number of young people appearing in Youth Court dropping 44% over the same period, which means custodial remand rate in the youth justice system has increased from 17% in 2011 to 28% in 2017. The peak was in 2015 when the rate was 30%.
Reducing recidivism should also be a focus, the ministry said.
“There has been little change in the 12-month and 24-month reoffending rates for young people since 2009. The 12-month reoffending rate for young people was 48% in 2009 and 49% in 2015. It dipped slightly between 2009 and 2012 before rising again. Similarly, the 24-month reoffending rate was 67% in 2009 and 66% in 2014,” the report said.