Bill for young ram raid offenders to be treated as adults should be ‘thrown in the trash’ — youth advocate
30 October, 2023
Interview by Joshua Black, adapted by Joel Armstrong
VOYCE Whakarongo Mai Regional Youth Council member, Lisa McLaren, is calling on political leaders to focus on evidence-based solutions to address youth crime. Image: Mount Eden Prison Watchtower - Wikimedia Commons
A bill, introduced by the Labour Party, that would enforce harsher measures on young people who carry out ram raids has passed its first reading in parliament.
The Ram Raid Offending and Related Measures Amendment Bill would see rangatahi aged 15 and above processed through adult courts for ram raiding offences, where they could potentially receive a maximum of 10 years in prison.
12 and 13-year-old children would be charged in the Youth Court for ram raiding, and offenders could be held in the custody of Oranga Tamariki or under bail conditions in their homes.
The bill would also make sharing images or videos of a ram raid on social media a serious offence, which the bill said encourages “copy-cat” offences.
This comes after criticism of the Labour government by National and ACT for being “soft on crime” and youth offenders.
Member of VOYCE Whakarongo Mai Regional Youth Council, a group of young people who have experienced state care in Aotearoa, Lisa McLaren, told 95bFM’s The Wire, that the legislation should be “completely thrown in the trash”.
Instead, she believes focusing on evidence-based solutions would be more effective in addressing ram raiding crime.
“Evidence-based solutions that have been explored involve evolving the youth justice system back into more of a rehabilitative state, more restorative justice, and importantly, upholding the mana of both the victim and the young offender."
She said factors including poor mental health, substance abuse, and poverty, are not discussed enough when it comes to understanding why young people get involved in criminal activity.
“When we address the root causes of the offending, we notice that the offending tends to stop.”
McLaren argued that penalties for youth offending that have been tried in the past, such as boot camps, which National and ACT proposed during their 2023 election campaigns, were “disastrous", and did not improve re-offending rates.
“It is clear that penal populism and these knee-jerk reactions of harsher punishment, are not even suitable for adults, let alone for young people.”
McLaren said the focus on ram raiding crimes in the media is disproportionate to actual statistics on youth crime.
“It does not reflect the actual drop in ram raids, a drop of upwards of 61% over the past six months. That has not been mentioned in the media, because it does not align with the narrative of why people think the ram raids amendment bill is needed.”
She accused politicians of using youth crime as a “political football”.
“The bill is trying to inflate youth crime, ram raids, and a moral panic situation that has been building for quite some time in the media, as a way to weaponise a sort of knee-jerk reaction.”
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air