Criminalising children undermines human rights
19 July 2023
Government announcement undermines human rights
Today, the Government announced that 12- and 13-year-olds could be sentenced in the Youth Court for a new ram-raid criminal offence. Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand is deeply disappointed by this policy and is calling on the New Zealand Government to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 years old.
The following can be attributed to Lisa Woods, Campaigns Director of Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand:
“Today’s announcement flies in the face of human rights and ignores the evidence that punitive approaches don’t work to reduce youth offending. Just last night, the United Nations Committee Against Torture asked the NZ Government what steps it was taking to raise the age of criminal responsibility in line with international best standards, which would be at least 14 years old. Instead, the Government is giving up on its commitment to children’s rights by introducing a new offence that could criminalise 12- and 13-year-olds.”
The current minimum age of criminal responsibility was set over 50 years ago in 1961. In 1993, Aotearoa New Zealand ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which lays out clear recommendations for the country’s youth justice system, among other things. In 2019, the UN encouraged all States to increase their minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old.
We want to live in a world where all children are safe and supported. Aotearoa New Zealand is now noticeably out of step with our international peers and with human rights recommendations.Lisa Woods, Campaigns Director at Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand
“We will continue to advocate for fundamental changes to the criminal justice system in Aotearoa New Zealand. Raising the age of criminal responsibility is just one of many steps that the Government must take to create a fairer justice system for all,” said Woods.
“We urge the Government to undo this harmful development and to find alternative solutions. We need an approach that looks after people who have been harmed by youth offending and also addresses the upstream factors that have led to his harm. There are pathways forward, such as those outlined by the Turiki! Turiki! report, and it’s time the Government takes heed of the advice it has commissioned.”