ACT MP Heather Roy is the Party’s spokesman for security issues. Consequently she spent part of her Xmas break out with the Porirua police. Heather’s comments on juvenile offending and police power (or lack of)to deal with the problem.
Juvenile offending has become a serious and escalating problem. I was surprised by the extent of the legal constraints on the police. One incident we were called to was to deal with a fifteen year old who was attacking passers-by at random on a city street. He had been drinking heavily. On arrival the police were powerless to act despite three assaults with many witnesses.
The youth was eventually detained in police cells but this was only permissible because he had breached bail conditions from an earlier offence. He had a string of charges for offences ranging from assaults to burglaries but because he was under 17 he had no criminal convictions. Young criminals are aware of the powerlessness of the police and they know their rights.
One 20 year old gang associate boasted to police that he had just had $29,000 in fines wiped by the Courts. He was particularly pleased with himself because he had managed to escape periodic detention and community service as well. In front of his gang family he was ‘the man’ and his lesson from that experience was that crime pays.
The legal protection given to juvenile offenders is definitely excessive and it is evident that legislation needs to be changed. The only people who can change the legislation are the legislators – my fellow MPs and me.
At the same time as the government develops interests in our private behaviour it seems to have turned its back on its key role which is the protection of its citizen’s safety. After all, adult NZers can reasonably be expected to face the consequences of their own actions but many of us are unable to take action to protect ourselves from others. Even a 15 year old thug is going to be too much for many people. But the fact remains that a legal vacuum has been created leaving the police in the difficult position of having responsibility but no legal power to act in the majority of cases.
I accept the general argument that juveniles should be considered less responsible for their actions than adults but we do not do young offenders a favour if we give them the impression that they will never face any consequences for their actions. Despite a long period of lenient sentencing our prison population is currently rising at 15% per year and prisons cannot be built fast enough to cope. There is much work to be done if these serious problems are to be tackled.
If there’s one thing that all socialists hate it is personal responsibility. Socialists simply do not believe people should be held accountable for their actions (except for “right wingers” of course. How much damage is socialist judicial philosophy doing to our vulnerable young?