No to youth offenders being held in police cells

no to police cells for youthI am asking all branches to take action in support of the Children’s Commissioner’s call for a law change to make it illegal for youth offenders to be held in police cells.

On Checkpoint 22 January, Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft says more community-based initiatives are needed, as it’s time to abolish the practice of holding youth in police cells.

Figures acquired by RNZ show young offenders spent at least 24 hours in police cells on 151 occasions from June 2015 to 2016 – an increase of nearly 200 percent on the previous year.

Teenagers between 14 and 16-years-old can be remanded in police custody if Child, Youth and Family can’t provide a bed for them at a youth justice residence; however it is meant to be a “last resort option”.

Principal Youth Court Judge, John Walker, said the figures were unacceptable.

“Three, four, five days of a young person in police cells does happen… It’s unacceptable. One night is bad enough; more than one night is unacceptable.”

Nelson lawyer John Sandston said the practice had no place in a first-world country.

He said he had dealt with a case where a teenager was in the Nelson police station for about four days in December.

“It’s ludicrous because this problem has been going on for many years.”

If you do an internet search: Youth being held in police cells NZ, you will find several links to up to-date relevant background information. These include links to Radio NZ, Community Law NZ, NZ Herald and Stuff.

What can you do?

Contact the lawmakers: You could leave a message on their Facebook page, write them a letter and or visit them at their electorate office.

  • Local MP’s
  • Government Ministers:
    • Prime Minister, Rt Hon Bill English
    • The Minister of Justice, Minister for the Courts, Hon Amy Adams
    • Minister for Police, Hon Paula Bennett
    • Minister for Children and Minister for Social development , Hon Anne Tolley
    • Minister for Youth, Hon Nikki Kaye
    • Minister of Corrections , Hon Louise Upton
  • Write or speak to Andrew Becroft, Children’s Commissioner, to show our support of what he is doing. In Tui Motu Interslander , Sept 2016, he says, “I need a lot of advice and I hope good community people, including your readers, will be telling me if I’m getting it wrong. That’s an invitation.”
  • Write to your local newspapers
  • Put something into your parish newsletters to raise awareness

Kathleen Blackburn
National President