Special bootcamp for youth offenders at Waiouru army camp, under National video

Chris Skelton/STUFF

PM Bill English delivers National's policy to crack down on youth crime.

National is promising to create a new bootcamp for youth offenders at the Waiouru Army camp, training alongside New Zealand's soldiers. 

Making the announcement in Auckland, Prime Minister Bill English said National would crack down on the most serious young offenders and hold "negligent parents" to account. 

"It's become clear that there is a small group of around 150 very serious young offenders for whom our Youth Justice System in it's current form just doesn't work," English said.  

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"These are 14 to 17-year-olds who've committed very serious offences with sentences up to 14 years - that is serious assault, sexual assaults, aggravated robbery and murder. 

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"The kind of offences that have made people feel unsafe in their dairies, in their workplaces and that's not good enough for us or for New Zealand."

Prime Minister Bill English reveals National's plans to deal with the most serious youth offenders, alongside Deputy ...
HARRISON CHRISTIAN

Prime Minister Bill English reveals National's plans to deal with the most serious youth offenders, alongside Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett and Justice Minister Amy Adams.

In a move to reaffirm National as the "law and order party", English announced a $60m package to deal with the most violent and recidivist young offenders.

Justice Minister Amy Adams laid out the details of the proposal. 

"We will introduce a Young Serious Offender (YSO) classification which will see this very small group of the most hardened young offenders dealt with in ways that better reflect the seriousness of their crimes and help ensure fewer people are victimised.

"As a part of this, we will establish a defence-led Junior Training Academy based at the Waiouru Training Camp. Judges will be able to order YSOs who commit serious subsequent offences to attend the Academy for one year. The Academy will support YSOs to address problems like addiction or a lack of literacy and numeracy skills, helping them lead better lives while keeping the public safe.

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"Those who fail to complete their time at the Academy will serve a commensurate adult sentence of imprisonment instead," she said. 

"These are young people who have been in and out of Youth Court but have shown no willingness or ability to change their behaviour. We are not prepared to just sit back and allow their victims to keep racking up until they reach adulthood."

National estimated about 50 serious youth offenders per year, would be sent to the Junior Training Academy. That scheme would cost about $30 million over four years.

Other changes under the YSO classification would include tightening bail requirements, increasing the use of electronic monitoring, and removing the ability for the most serious young offenders to be released early from any youth justice custodial sentences.

A new National Government would also look at the role parents played in their children's spiral to an early life of crime.

 "In many cases, young people who offend have few good role models or are given the freedom to commit crimes," Adams said.

"We will make changes to hold their parents to account, including by allowing police to issue instant infringement notices to parents of children under 14 walking the streets without supervision between 12am and 5am.

 "In addition, any breaches of court orders directed at a young person's parent will be recorded on that parent's criminal record. A loophole means this is not the case currently."

Adams said she went on ride-alongs with police a couple of times a year.

"And it appalls me the number of quite young children, you see out at two or three in the morning, wandering around in small groups - apparently no one too worried about their whereabouts. 

"Police will often pick them up and take them home, and I've seen them be taken to homes where there is not a lot of concern that these young people have been out and about." 

I don't think, and we don't think, that it's acceptable to have young people under 14 wandering round in those very very late hours of the morning - we think parents do need to step up and take responsibiliy for ensuring that if you've got children under 14, you should know where they are between midnight and 5am." 

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett - who introduced different types of bootcamps as former police minister - rejected claims that they had not worked previously. 

"They were very different, they were the [Military-Style Activity] Camps and they were within the Youth Justice facilities.

"Actually they did lower offending for that hard group, but this is very different where you're looking at a suspended sentence for up to a year, so that length of time was really important when we looked at it." 

The remaining $30m of the $60m package would go into a contestable fund over four years, for community groups to support programmes to reduce offending.

"We know local solutions are often the best, and we want to give smaller or rural communities the opportunity to take further action".

BOOTCAMPS A "GIMMICK"  - LABOUR

Labour's justice spokesman Andrew Little has panned National's plan, calling the bootcamps and plans to infringe parents "draconian and counterproductive". 

"National's policy is simply a desperate headline-grabbing response to a problem the Government has created through their underfunding of Police for nine years.

"They won't make a difference. They are punishing parents when what we need are new ways of intervening early on with families who have challenging situations."

He said Labour's "Ready for Work" policy would go a long way to fixing the underlying issues of chronic homelessness, poor education and unemployment that sent youth down a path of crime in the first place. 

"Labour has a plan to help vulnerable families through our expansion of Working for Families. We will tackle poverty because often that's what turns young people to crime. Our mental health strategy, which includes placing a nurse in every secondary school, will also help at risk youth." 

 - Stuff

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