Despite the challenges, the Youth Court remains a place of great hope. The engagement of so many agencies — Police Youth Aid, forensic clinicians, youth-justice social workers, education officers, and lay and youth advocates — all coming together in the courtroom, presents the best chance of achieving lasting solutions for young people who are on destructive and damaging paths.
Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker speaking at the opening of the Rangatahi Court in Whāngarei.
Outside of the agencies, the key to working more effectively is to ensure our Youth Courts are a part of the communities they serve. This requires true community engagement at a local level, for each individual court. It means bringing the community into the court, and vice versa.
Local representation through the multi-agency team is one significant step towards this. The challenge for 2018 is to continue this kaupapa in a meaningful way, while preparing for the significant legislative changes coming into force in July 2019.
It is important that our incoming group of 17-year-olds, who will be encompassed within the Youth Court jurisdiction from that date, are treated in the same manner as any other young person in the youth justice system. They too must have the same principles of diversion and rehabilitation open to them, if we are to effect change for them.