New Zealand Police v XR [2020] NZYC 67

Published 05 March 2020

Refusal to approve youth justice Family Group Conference plan — breach of youth justice principles — autism (ASD) — family violence — care and protection concerns — Oranga Tamariki Act1989, ss 261, 280 & 333 — United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the centre of this hearing was a 17-year-old young person with a range of complex needs including autism, anxiety, and an intellectual disability. Her parents had become overwhelmed and, unable to deal with her behaviour, attempted to solve issues by providing her with unprescribed controlled drugs, alcohol and illegal drugs. The young person had also been exposed to family violence. It was clear from the social worker's report that the child was vulnerable. At a youth justice Family Group Conference (FGC), the young person had not denied charges of assaulting her father with a chisel, and also assaulting a police constable. The FGC then developed a plan to move the young person through the Youth Court system and involved referral to a residential addiction help programme, community work, apologising and obeying bail conditions. The Judge refused to approve the plan on the basis it was not an appropriate response to the young person's situation, breached New Zealand's international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) and would further traumatise the young person. There were clear care and protection concerns (a Judge had previously made a referral to a care and protection coordinator) and the appropriate course of action was to hold a care and protection FGC. Viable alternatives to prosecuting the young person through the Youth Court had not been explored and they needed to be. The young person was remanded at large and a date was set for a crossover list hearing. Judgment Date: 21 January 2020. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *