The Government is looking to change the law to keep 17-year-old crims out of adult courts – a move that alarms the good samaritan bashed by a teenage bag-snatcher.
Lucy Knight suffered a fractured skull and brain bleed at the hands of 17-year-old Hendrix Hauwai. “The alarming thing is that they will get a another whole year to commit crimes before they hit that magical 18th birthday,” she said yesterday.
Justice Minister Amy Adams has asked officials to look at whether dealing with 17-year-olds in the Youth Court will cut rates of re-offending and stop some young people starting out on a life of crime.
The Youth Court, currently for those aged 12 to 16, is less formal, with specialised judges. Offenders don’t get a criminal record.
I believe the law should be consistent about when a young person is an adult. That is one reasons I supported a drinking age of 18, not 20.
Ideally we should have two ages at which you gain some and then all of the rights (and responsibilities) of adulthood. They are 16 (sex, driving etc) and 18.
So I think you should be tried as an adult either once you turn 16 or 18 – not the status quo of 17.
On a principled level, I think 18 is the better threshold.
The Youth Court already refers the most serious crimes – including murder and manslaughter – to the High Court. That won’t change.
That is key. If you kill someone or rape someone, you should face the adult court. But for lesser charges the Youth Court is appropriate.
Maybe one can use the three strikes law to distinguish? If you commit an offence that qualifies as a strike (a serious violent or sexual offence), then it goes to an adult court regardless of age. But for a non strike offence, it is the youth court until you are 18?
Adams said some aged 17, especially first-time offenders, may benefit from the Youth Court, which places more of an emphasis on support and rehabilitation. “There are equally 17 years olds who, it is their third or fourth time around the system. They are on a very different trajectory. There are a number of police, court and Corrections staff at the front line who have said to me they would be absolutely against me raising the age because there are some 17 year olds, who they think absolutely don’t belong in the youth court system.”
Maybe again have some sort of threshold? If you make more than x (say four) youth court appearances, then it is the adult court after that?