Four in five young offenders who receive the toughest Youth Court sanctions reoffend, groundbreaking research has found.
A study of 1800 14-year-olds to 16-year-olds who had supervision orders found more than two thirds committed new crimes within two years of the sentence being passed, and 80 per cent within five years.
But the second wave of offences was generally less serious than the first, according to the study by the Social Development Ministry's centre for social research and evaluation.
The centre says the study is the first into reoffending rates among people who get supervision orders, which are at the top end of the Youth Court's powers.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the high rate gave weight to the Government's plans to extend the duration and scope of the orders.
"By doubling Youth Court orders and increasing supervision periods, as well as increased mentoring, drug and alcohol and parenting programmes, the Government's plugging the holes in the system that young offenders have been falling through," she said.
The Government is doubling maximum residential supervision orders from three to six months, with the maximum follow-up community supervision rising from six to 12 months. Maximum supervision with activity orders will double to six months, plus six months' follow-up.
The so-called Fresh Start policy, due to be in place by October, also extends the jurisdiction of the Youth Court to 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds and introduces army-style boot camps.
We applaud these moves, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. And as we discovered yesterday, young offenders (and we mean YOUNG) can give a literal finger to a justice system which cannot touch them; and they know that the system cannot touch them.
The whole area of youth offending is a minefield for any government. All we can be sure of is that the children we encountered yesterday will reoffend, and that until they reach an age at which the police can prosecute them, they will learn nothing about the consequences of their offending. We think that is a travesty, and a tragedy.