Changes called for to prevent children appearing in adult courts

Leah Panapa 03/11/2021

LISTEN: A group of youth justice experts believe no child should ever appear in an adult courtroom and should never be sentenced to life imprisonment.

The group has released a paper calling for four urgent law changes to remove children aged between 10 and 17 from being dealt with in the adult court.

Instead, they want young children to be processed through a specialised youth justice court and want to see the minimum age of criminal responsibility raised and the end of remanding children in police cells.

Mike Williams, chief executive of the NZ Howard League for Penal Reform, says he supports the calls.

"We've got a system at the moment that I think treats children as adults far too early," he told Magic Talk.

Williams says the result of that is young people being jailed alongside hardened criminals.

"What we know about jails is they're a university for crime and what we should do is do our absolute level best to avoid that end," Williams said.

The paper was lead by Victoria University associate law professor Nessa Lynch,​ alongside former Children’s commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft,​ Auckland University professor Ian Lambie​ and law honours student Tamara Wilson-Tasi.​

Williams has talked to "hundreds" of prisoners during his time associated with the NZ Howard League for Penal Reform, and says "well over half of them" were children associated with Oranga Tamariki.

"Kids are not born evil. It's their life experience, and that's why we've got to really examine Oranga Tamariki," he said.

Listen to the full interview with Mike Williams above.

Magic Talk | Mornings with Leah Panapa, weekdays from 9am.

Missed an interview on Magic Talk? Subscribe to the Daily Dialogue now.