13-year-old girl caught drink-driving

A 13-year-old girl caught drink-driving in Invercargill this week raised a red flag for police about her care and protection, youth services Sergeant Phil Berryman said.

Members of the public tipped off police after spotting the girl driving what The Southland Times understands to be her family's car and officers pulled her over in the city about 6pm on Tuesday.

Police yesterday would not confirm where she was pulled over or her breath alcohol reading, and as a 13-year-old she was not criminally culpable for driving without a licence or for drinking before getting behind the wheel.

Mr Berryman said her level, if she was criminally responsible for drink-driving, fell into the under-20 breath alcohol level of more than 150mcg, but less than the adult level of 400mcg.

Drink-driving at both levels could potentially lead to jail time or a fine and a mandatory licence disqualification, he said. But when the offender could not be held responsible, the territory shifted.

"We aren't looking at a criminal sentence ... it's about what needs to be put in place," Mr Berryman said.

"Criminal offending (at that age) is a red flag that there are obviously care and protection concerns for this child."

The girl's file had yet to be referred to youth services but such offending was rare, despite Invercargill police dealing with more offending by children aged under 14.

"To be criminally culpable, you have to be 14 years old and up," he said.

"Any child aged between 10 and 13 is dealt with under the child protection side of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989."

Children and young people aged 14 or more were subject to the youth justice system, and crimes committed would be heard in Youth Court.

For children under 13, the process was more complicated, Mr Berryman said.

"For children aged between 10 and 13, police can take action where the offending highlights the child is in need of care or protection."

Police would initially work with family or caregivers but those cases could go to the Family Court, where formal measures to help and support the family could be put in place.

In a worst-case scenario, a child could be taken from its family and placed into Child, Youth and Family custody, he said.

The Southland Times