Back to reports

Contents

— Youth Court

The Youth Court is a specialist division of the District Court and is overseen by the Principal Youth Court Judge. There are 64 designated Youth Court judges.

The Youth Court primarily deals with offending by young people aged 14-17 years, except for some serious offending by 17 year olds which is transferred automatically to the District Court. In certain circumstances the Youth Court also deals with serious offending by children aged 12-13 years.

The Youth Court is not just the District Court for young people. It has all the hallmarks of a solution-focused court, centred on rehabilitation, wrap-around support, addressing the underlying causes of offending, and diversion away from court. A team of dedicated specialists assist young people to actively engage and participate in proceedings.

"The Youth Court is not just the District Court for young people. It has all the hallmarks of a solution-focused court… "

Only 20–30 per cent of police apprehensions come before the Youth Court. This allows judges to focus on cases involving serious offending by young people with complex needs.

Young offenders have often been exposed to trauma, abuse and family violence. They may be dislocated from their culture or schooling and increasingly suffer from mental illness. Neurodisabilities such as Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, autism and dyslexia are also common.

A unique feature of the Youth Court process is the Family Group Conference (FGC), which involves a gathering of the young person, their family, any victims, Police Youth Aid, the young person’s Youth Advocate (lawyer) and other professionals. The parties establish a plan to address the offending and underlying causes, provide for any victims’ interests and help the young person to take responsibility for their actions.

Open door to a courtroom with Youth Court written on door.

 

Not all Youth Court proceedings occur in a traditional courtroom. Ngā Kōti Rangatahi (Rangatahi Courts) and Pasifika Courts occur at a marae or a Pasifika hall. Māori or Pacific languages, custom and cultural practices are used as part of the court process. There are 15 Rangatahi Courts nationwide and two Pasifika Courts. A sixteenth Rangatahi Court was due to open in Hawke’s Bay in late 2020.

These courts were established to address the over-representation of Māori and Pasifika in the youth justice system. This has had visible positive effects. The number of Māori children and young people in court is decreasing, and at a faster rate than other ethnicities.

Inside of marae with attendees sitting and speaker at a podium.

New Zealand’s Youth Court judges assemble every three years for their triennial conference. In July 2019, Ōrākei Marae in Auckland was the venue for the conference.

National Statistics

Graph of total Youth Court cases showing new business, disposals and active cases

 

  2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020
New Business 4,321 4,457 3,653 3,219 3,388
Disposals 4,077 4,421 3,703 3,299 3,204
Active Cases
1,095 1,039 918 791 892

Comparing the current Fiscal year to the previous Fiscal year has seen:

    New business increase by 169 applications (+5%)

    Disposals decrease by 95 applications (-3%)

    Active cases increase by 101 applications (+13%)

The increase in new business and active cases reflects the inclusion of 17 year olds in the Youth Court jurisdiction from 1 July 2019.