Punishment should fit the offender as well as the crime

Punishment should fit the offender as well as the crime

Howard Broad, Police Commissioner

This morning I attended the launch of New Zealand's third marae-based youth court. It was on Hoani Waititi Marae in Waitakere. It will follow a concept that was first pioneered on a Gisborne marae two years ago, then spread to Manurewa in October last year. These courts - officially called Te Kooti Rangatahi/The Rangatahi Court - mean young people who face minor charges and admit them in a regular youth court can choose to have their next hearing on the marae. They then go through the same family group conference plan they would in a regular court, but progress is monitored on the marae and follows the protocols of tikanga Maori. This is not a soft option. Being on a marae, scrutinised by kaumātua and kuia, seems to hit home with many young Maori. People involved with the Rangatahi Courts told me offenders are generally more respectful and responsive than in a regular court. While the young people are made accountable for their offending, the local marae community is on hand to help address reasons for the offending and steer them onto a better track. Although it's too early for Rangatahi Courts to prove themselves statistically, I have high hopes. An appropriate punishment needs to fit the offender as well as the crime. Auckland police have kept this in mind while trialing a new approach to dealing with people involved in relatively minor crime over the last few months. Rather than putting them straight into the criminal justice system, officers have been able to exercise discretion and issue a formal warning. We believe this approach will produce quicker and more effective results for victims and offenders while still holding offenders accountable. It also means our officers can spend more time on the streets and dealing with serious crime, rather than court processes and paperwork. As a healthy society, we should do what we can to confront offenders, address the cause of their offending and punish them as necessary. It is in our interest to make sure this process is efficient and effective - new approaches to doing this well should be welcomed.