11 May 2009

Youth crime bill 'breaches human rights'

10:14 pm on 11 May 2009

There are claims that proposed legislation allowing more 12 and 13-year olds to be dealt with by the Youth Court breaches international human rights guidelines.

At present, only 12 and 13-year-olds facing murder and manslaughter charges go before the Youth Court. The rest are dealt with in the Family Court.

A bill to extend the jurisdiction of the Youth Court to 12 and 13-year-olds who have committed serious or repeated crimes is before a Social Services Select Committee.

A senior associate at Victoria University's institute of policy studies, Gabrielle Maxwell, says New Zealand already falls outside United Nations guidelines because of its court treatment of 15-year-olds.

She says putting 12-year-olds in the Youth Court would be seen by the UN as breaching their human rights.

Youth Affairs Minister Paula Bennett says the Government does not plan to treat 12-year-olds as adults, but will intervene in their lives at an earlier age.

Ms Bennett says the changes were called for by police.