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2010 Maori Criminal Law award winner, Arama
Ngapo-Lipscombe has seen it all in court. This
Tokoroa born and raised lawyer says alcohol and
drugs are the main ingredient for a majority of all
Why do young people offend? What makes
young people want to shoplift, steal, assault
another person, tag a fence or any other number
of criminal acts? As a Youth Advocate (Youth Court
Lawyer) this is often the second question I ask of
my young clients. The first question is are you ok?
The Youth Court can be a scary place to be and
part of my job is to explain the legal procedures to
youth in clear simple terms that they can under-
stand. I work with the Police, Child Youth and Fam-
ily Services and other social services agencies to try
and get the best outcome for the Young person.
However in 100% of cases the most successful
outcomes are only achieved with the assistance of
the whanau and co-operation of the young person
So why do young people offend some of the
most common reasons are alcohol, drugs, truancy,
peer pressure, lack of good role models and bore-
dom oh and did I mention alcohol and drugs? The
amount of young people that cannot remember
their offending because they have been high or
wasted is concerning. Some young people believe
that because they can’t remember what happened
then they shouldn’t be held accountable. Some
young people think that criminal offending will
mean that they are tough and cool. Well they
don’t look so tough after they have been arrested
and held in the Police cells overnight. I hope that
this experience will encourage young offenders to
make changes in their lives to better themselves;
equally I hope that this also encourages their
whanau or caregivers to provide the necessary
support, guidance and care that the young person
I had a client who was charged with burglary he
was 17 years old when he was arrested but when
he committed the crime he was 16 years old so he
was dealt with in the Youth Court. His co-offender
had just turned 17 at the time of his offending
so he was dealt with in the Criminal Court. The
difference in the youth sentence compared to the
criminal sentence 6 months jail for the criminal
court. The real difference 6 weeks and a birthday.
The Criminal Court found that the older child was
the more criminally sophisticated of the 2 and had
misled the younger offender. The youth offender
was subject to a counselling order and community
work. Both of the offenders had been drinking and
using drugs. They both decided to burgle the home
but their sentences were so different. So my point
here is that the Youth Court makes allowances
for young people to make mistakes make them
right and get your life on track. By the time you
get to the Criminal Court those options are rarely
I accept that young people can make mistakes. I
also believe that young people can do something
to make right that mistake. If you have a problem
with alcohol then tell someone and get help, you
don’t want the help to come after you have been
so drunk, you stole a car crashed at and killed
someone and then can’t remember.
There are so many other sad examples I could
share it is almost heartbreaking. Our youth, our
young people are some of our most vulnerable
members of society and need our support, encour-
agement and guidance.
Principal, Ngapo-Lipscombe Law
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