The announcement that Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft will be the country's next Children's Commissioner is "fantastic news," says police project leader and family harm co-ordinator Simon Howard.
"Judge Becroft is well known and respected throughout New Zealand for his approach to child protection and restorative justice. His appointment is an excellent choice and shows the government is committed to making a substantial difference to the lives and futures of New Zealand's vulnerable children and young people."
Simon, who is based at Tutaki Youth Inc, says Judge Becroft's experience in dealing with troubled and at-risk youth will be vital as Child Youth and Family undergoes the major overhaul announced by Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley, last month.
"As our care and protection system is undergoing great change, it is exciting to have such a staunch advocate for children and youth in the role of custodian of children's rights. As a Youth Court Judge, Judge Becroft has seen first hand the consequences of neglect, poverty, violence and inequality and therefore has a clear understanding of the need for education and prevention strategies when it comes to working towards long lasting solutions."
The announced changes include the raising of the age from 17 to 18 at which young people leave state care, and reviewing the possibility of a similar lift in the age of adult criminal responsibility. At present the youth court deals with offenders aged 14 to 16, says Simon.
"Children should not be treated as adults by the justice system. We believe the current system would benefit by not excluding 17-year-olds from the youth justice system, given the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child is clear in defining a child as being anyone under 18."