A youth law advocacy group says young Maori have a much higher chance of facing prosecution than young Pakeha.
The group Just Speak has researched Statistics New Zealand data relating to prosecutions in 2011 involving those between the ages of 10 and 16.
They show Maori in that age group are significantly more likely to be prosecuted than Pakeha across a wide range of offences.
The group says the statistics reveal that for 14 specified types of offence Maori are more likely to end up in court.
In the most extreme example, 46% of Maori who were apprehended for dangerous or negligent acts were prosecuted compared to 9% of Pakeha.
Just Speak spokesperson Lydia Nobbs says although statistics do not always reflect the big picture they beg the question why Maori are not given more options before being prosecuted.
Associate Justice Minister Chester Borrows, a former police officer, says the numbers may come down to young Maori not having as many options in the court process to avoid prosecution.
The chief executive of the Waipareira Trust says the research suggests there is ethnic profiling of Maori by the police and courts.
John Tamihere says Maori are not as likely to be given the benefit of the doubt and are therefore not placed into diversion or community sentences.
The police general manager of Maori, Pacific and ethnic services, Wally Haumaha, says officers do not target Maori.
"They don't go out deliberately to say, look, we're going to go into the central business district purely to look for these Maori kids.
"I mean, if there's a group of kids congregating in a spot and they are causing issues or problems I'm satisfied now that the approach that most of our staff are taking is to work out what the issues are."
Superintendent Haumaha says Maori have fewer options in court and police are working hard with communities and Maori organisations to change that.
Police say there are programmes in place that aim to decrease the first time Maori youth offending rate by 10% within five years.