Youth justice: overview

New Zealand’s youth justice system aims to keep young offenders out of the formal criminal-justice system if possible. When a young person commits a criminal offence, the law is designed to hold them accountable but also to respond in a way that takes account of their age.

This chapter covers:

  • the aims and principles guiding the youth justice system
  • the ages at which children and young people can be held responsible for different types of crimes
  • the special protections for young people when they’re being dealt with by the police
  • the different types of action that can be taken against a young offender, particularly youth justice family group conferences and the role of the Youth Court.

Definitions of “child” and “young person”

Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989, s 2

Child – a boy or girl under the age of 14

Young person – a boy or girl who’s aged 14, 15 or 16 – but this doesn’t include anyone of that age who is, or has been, married or in a civil union.

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