The Paua Palace

My royal blog, life, opinions and me, it’s all about ME.. Right?

Combatting Youth Crime

Posted by pauaprincess on October 1, 2007

In Stuff today the following article discusses youth crime.(Link) Specifically how the Police and the Courts are virtually powerless to act, 8500 crimes have been committed by children too young to prosecute.  The concern of the Police is that by the time young people are criminally responsible and Police can intervene, they have become recidivist offenders.  They aren’t talking about a child nicking a bar of chocolate from the local dairy.  Children as young as 9 are taking knives to school, robbing and threatening other children, burglarizing homes and joining forming gangs that emulate and feed into older street gangs as they grow.

The Crimes Act 1951 states:

Children Under 10:

No person shall be convicted of an offence by reason of any act done or omitted by him when under the age of 10 years.

Children between the Ages of 10-14:

No person shall be convicted of an offence by reason of any act done or omitted by him when of the age of 10 but under the age of 14 years, unless he knew either that the act or omission was wrong or that it was contrary to law.

NZ First MP Ron Mark has drafted a bill that would lower the age of prosecution from 14 to 12, and introduce heavier penalties for children who commit serious crimes.  Police say they do not want to criminalise young offenders, but that lowering the age of criminal responsibility would allow Police to intervene earlier, before they become hardened criminals.  The Police also want the courts to be able to deal with young people quickly and more effectively.

Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft and Children’s Commissioner Cindy Kiro have criticised the bill.  My question is why?  The Children’s Commissioner is the person charged with being the prime advocate for children in this country.  Why is she against lowering the age of Criminal Responsibility and allowing Police and Justice Services from helping these children whose parents and families plainly cannot help them?

As Mark O’Connor of the Police Association says, 15 and 16 year olds, don’t just suddenly become violent.  There is a history building there. 

Earlier intervention by the Police could prevent Family Violence in the future, prevent these children growing up and killing their children.  Why would we not want to prevent that?

When the Princeling was 4 he stole an old padlock from a site where his electrician father was working.  I found it whilst doing the washing, curious I asked the Prince where it came from.  The Prince knew immediately and the Princeling was confronted. 

I took the Princeling to the local Police Station.  I took him to the Senior Sergeants who I knew and asked him to assist me.  The Senior asked him about what happened, the Princeling admitted what he’d done, quailing under the steady, fierce gaze of the Senior who called in a female constable and told her to show the young prince what happened to little boys and girls who stole things.  He quietly told the constable not to shut the cell doors on him, but so as the princeling didn’t hear. 

The constable then took the Princeling out to the watch house, where he was shown the process, fingerprinting, photographs, empty the pockets into an envelope, off with the shoes and here’s the cells.  The Princeling asked why they took his shoes?  So you can’t run away was the answer.  When we got to the cells he looked at the heavy door, the big lock and the huge key.  The constable pointed to a door at the end of the corridor.

 “see that door there? Well that door leads back to the front counter and if you can promise me, that you will never, ever steal anything again, you can go through it, with your Mum, and go home.  If you can’t promise that you will never steal again, I’m afraid you’ll need to go in here (pointing into the cell).”

The Princeling looked at her, blue eyes swimming with tears and promised, he’d never ever steal anything, ever!

We went through the door at the end of the corridor and I am happy to say that the princeling has never, ever stolen anything in the 6 years since.

He asked not long ago if he could go with his friends to hang out at the local shopping centre on late night.  I said no.  He was very angry about that all night.  The following day he came to me and said Mum, thank goodness you told me no, you were right.  I asked why?  He told me his friends had gone to the pick and mix lolly aisle and stuffed their pockets with sweets and tried to walk out, they stole Mum and they got caught!  The Police came and now they aren’t allowed to go back to the shopping centre for two years and X’s father came to school and yelled at him in front of everyone!  Then he said, they are lucky they didn’t end up in one of those cages with no shoes eh Mum?

I don’t know if it’s that they’ve been taught well, that they’ve observed the basic honesty with which we their parents conduct our lives or that my children are just innately good, but I like to think that experience served my child well.  It was the first time he’d ever stolen anything, he was caught and was shown the consequences, not a touchy feely talk or a say your sorry experience, a cold, hard taste of the future!

That’s why I support the idea of lowering the age of criminal responsibility.  Some times, it’s better to learn the hard lessons from someone in a uniform.

 

 

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