Submission on the Oranga Tamariki (Youth Demerit Points) Amendment Bill

February 3, 2021


Submission: Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Demerit Points) Amendment Bill



JustSpeak welcomes the opportunity to provide this submission on the Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Demerit Points) Amendment Bill.

JustSpeak is a movement of young people who are speaking up and speaking out on criminal justice for a thriving Aotearoa. We develop tools, resources, spaces and support to facilitate a public conversation on criminal justice informed by evidence and lived experience.


Executive summary

As an organisation that advocates for a compassionate and evidence-based approach to justice transformation, JustSpeak is deeply concerned by this Bill and its punitive implications for our vulnerable communities.

This Bill undermines the recent shift in our understanding here in Aotearoa (and that across comparable jurisdictions) that tough on crime approaches have not worked to make us safer, and have instead made us less safe, and caused immeasurable harm in our communities, disproportionately Māori, Pasifika and poor communities. 

By repeatedly oversimplifying the youth justice system, this Bill fails to address the drivers of offending amongst young people, including neurodiversity, disability, poverty, substance use and interpersonal violence.

Additionally, the Bill does not address the presence of racial bias at every level of the justice system, and how this amendment will disproportionately impact rangatahi Māori. Removing the options for therapeutic jurisprudence would have severe implications for government accountability under Te Tiriti.

Evidence on effective deterrents and decreasing recidivism makes clear the importance of personalised approaches for each case, where the whakapapa of the incident is acknowledged, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. These principles are reflected in tikanga-based approaches to intervention and justice which must be prioritised over punitive approaches such as that outline in this Bill.  

Existing alternatives to a points-based system

Community responses are the most effective methods to rehabilitate youth offending. A number of these initiatives already exist, and would benefit from wider implementation and additional funding. These include wrap-around support services to ensure the wellbeing of people who have offended and iwi-led initiatives to promote accountability and healing. 

These initiatives can be supported with other funding and policy changes, including the expansion of Youth Justice courts and therapeutic courts, and increased use of s27 cultural reports.

Crucially, these initiatives consider the drivers and the context of the offending. All offences and the context surrounding their commission are different. We must ensure that our justice system and legislation remains flexible enough to respond to crimes in a way that will provide best outcomes for those affected. 


We recommend that Parliament does not pass this bill into law.  Aotearoa New Zealand  must continue to shift away from an ineffective, punitive system, towards a more effective, evidence-based approach to addressing harm in our communities, which reflect international best practices when addressing youth offending.