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Govt will consider youth justice change

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/09/2016

The government will consider raising the youth justice system's upper age limit from 17 to 18, Prime Minister John Key says.

Raising the limit would allow 17-year-olds to be dealt with by the Youth Court, and 34 community, academic and justice organisations have released an open letter calling for the change.

"We will look at it," Mr Key said at his post-cabinet press conference on Monday.

"I'm not saying we will change it, let's wait until we have the discussion."

The Greens are backing the call.

Justice spokesman David Clendon says 17-year-olds are treated as children in virtually every other aspect of their lives.

"Under current law, a misstep at this impressionable age can have devastating consequences," he said on Monday.

"Most people, particularly those who have been victims of crime themselves, support the kind of restorative justice processes that are found in the Youth Court system."

Children's Commissioner and former principal Youth Court judge Andrew Becroft says it's a popular misconception that by raising the age to 18 young people would suddenly be let off more serious crimes.

"The Youth Court still has open to it very serious sentences where young people can be convicted and transferred to the District Court for sentence," he said on RNZ.

"So if public safety is the concern, you can almost guarantee that every 17-year-old who goes to prison now would still go to prison."

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