ACT welcomes youth crime proposals, Greens label it 'embarrassing'

November 17, 2022

If people are old enough to commit ram-raids, they're old enough to wear an ankle bracelet, according to Act Party leader David Seymour.

It comes after National's 'military academies' proposal announcement to target youth offending.

Speaking in Hamilton today National Party leader Christopher Luxon pointed to the increase in ram-raids across the country as an example of the growing problem.

“Sadly what we’ve seen since 2018 is a fivefold increase in ram-raids up and down this country. There’s a ram-raid happening every 15 hours in New Zealand,” he said.

National outlined its Combat Youth Offending Plan which includes four key components.

Michael Hill store on Hurstmere Rd,  Takapuna for ram-raid on October 5.

Part of that is a youth offender military academy that will be delivered by the New Zealand Defence Force and other community providers.

They would target young people aged 15 – 17 years old who could be ordered to attend by the courts for up to 12 months.

“The whole point is that these youth offender military academy’s are going to be a total circuit breaker. They are there to provide intense structured programs including schooling, mentoring, drug and alcohol treatment but in a very, very disciplined environment,” Luxon said.

The other two areas of the policy focus on tackling gangs and empowering community groups to “break the cycle of offending." Electronic monitoring was another option mooted.

Seymour said he welcomes the crackdown and his party is "glad" National have clarified its position on youth crime.

He said: "If you're a serious offender, if you break the law, you get an ankle bracelet, if you're old enough to do a ram-raid maybe you're old enough to be electronically tracked".

He said in a perfect world, there would be no smash and grabs and no ankle bracelets but people are being "terrorised" up and down New Zealand by children as young as 10.

"It [ankle bracelets] mean we know where you are, if you're going to school, if you're breaking your curfew, if you're appearing at the site of future crimes.

"It's a practical escalation from the government's side against youth offenders who are escalating against law-abiding New Zealanders".

Seymour said the "real cruelty" is giving no consequences to youth offenders until they enter the adult justice system.

"And then people ask why didn't they get consequences earlier so they could learn, right now we treat them with kid gloves until it's too late then we put them in an adult prison."

Labour responds

Acting Prime Minister Grant Robertson told media today boot camps would fail and National is just "reheating" old policies.

"This is a policy that we know does not work and the idea that just reheating it again somehow represents new thinking is ridiculous."

"Training up fitter, faster criminals doesn't work."

Asked if he thinks it's a way for Luxon to get votes, Robertson said he believes it is.

"This is a populist response to a serious issue, it's complex, we all know it's complex that's why it requires multiple interventions to support families and turn the lives of these young people around.

"That will not happen by sending them to boot camps which have been demonstrated to fail."

He said it's an "abject" failure of a policy and an abject failure of thinking.

"I actually think it portrays Christopher Luxon's inexperience that the best he can do is reheat the leftovers of the previous National government."

He said the policy is a "failure" of Luxon's leadership.

Justice Minister Kiri Allan agreed with Robertson, saying the proposed policies are proven to be ineffective.

Minister of Justice Kiri Allan says National's policy will fail.

"There's no better way to train up fitter, faster, better, more well-connected criminals by chucking them all together in an army camp to ultimately go on to form fully-fledged national networks."

Allan said the policy will go on to create further victims and a pathway to crime.

Greens respond

The Green Party have also hit out against the proposed policy, with MP Golriz Ghahraman labelling it as "embarrassing".

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman speaking to media today.

Ghahraman said New Zealand, and the youths who are offending, deserve better.

"What we know about young people who get detained for crimes is that they have overwhelmingly just experienced serious trauma, that's domestic or sexual violence and 90% have a learning disability.

"The stats are really really clear, the research is there and we know what to do to prevent them from a lifetime of crime and we know that's not boot camps."

She said National have prioritised their "look tough on crime" image at the expense of keeping victims and communities safe in the long-term.

"I think it's embarrassing for the National Party, I think what they're doing is dragging up failed policies, what's next - caning or electroshock?”

"New Zealand deserves a credible opposition frankly," she said.

Party co-leader Marama Davidson has labelled National's politics as lazy, saying she wishes they would do something that actually works.

"The policies are lazy, they're dog-whistling and they are not going to interrupt the intergenerational trauma harm that has happened and this is why I'm really quite outraged about this."

Youth advocate Aaron Henry expressed concerns about the way young people were being labelled as serious offenders.

"You know we’re talking about children between 10 and 17."