Keith Locke on the Policing (Storage of Youth Particulars) Amendment Bill – Committee Stage

National and Labour are using the fact that there was not a lot of debate about this provision when the Policing Act went through in 2008—in fact, there was no debate about this provision—to say that somehow the intention of the legislation is the way they want it: that particulars could be kept by the police of basically the whole range of people involved in youth offending who have come before the Youth Court.



The Green Party has argued in the first and second readings of the Policing (Storing of Youth Identifying Particulars) Bill that the process we are going through is a travesty of the parliamentary process, rushing this bill through in urgency. A lot of the argumentation by both National and Labour speakers has been that this is all just about restoring the status quo. They are using the fact that there was not a lot of debate about this provision when the Policing Act went through in 2008—in fact, there was no debate about this provision—to say that somehow the intention of the legislation is the way they want it: that particulars could be kept by the police of basically the whole range of people involved in youth offending who have come before the Youth Court. In fact, the fact that there was no substantive debate on the 2008 Policing Bill does not make a case one way or the other.

If there was no debate on it, members cannot say that the intention of Parliament was in any particular direction. Labour members can come out and say that when they were the Government, their intention was in that direction, and they are sorry, but they got it wrong in the legislation. Labour members can say that if they like, and National members can get up and say they now believe that the intention of the bill was this or that.

But Parliament is made up of all of the MPs and parties in Parliament, and the Green Party did not engage with this particular clause in the 2008 bill, because we were not aware of all of the implications, which were not part of the general debate, so we did not commit an argument one way or the other on this particular provision. So the idea that we, or the Māori Party, or any other party had a particular intention in 2008 that can now be divined by Labour or National speakers is nonsensical.

What has happened as a result of this debate is that there clearly is a substantive issue. Once this issue has been brought to the attention of the whole Committee, including the Green Party and Māori Party, there is a substantive issue. It is not just correcting an intention of Parliament. It may be correcting an intention of the Labour Government, or it may be correcting an intention of National, but it is not correcting the intention of Parliament. Rather than saying “Oh well, we can rush this through in urgency under our definition of the situation.”, as Labour and National are doing, they have to take Parliament into account, particularly the substantive issue that has been raised.

The second to last speaker for National in the second reading, Melissa Lee, said that this situation has applied since 1958. Well, let us dissect that a little bit. In 1958 there was no Youth Court. I am not an expert on what our methods of dealing with young people were like in 1958, but I think those methods were probably a little bit backward, and that is another reason to have a proper consideration of this bill, so that we can actually look at what the treatment was of young people back in 1958. We know that it was not until 31 years later in 1989 that the Youth Court was set up. So for the National speaker to say as she did that all of these provisions have applied since 1958, when there was not even a Youth Court in 1958, is nonsensical, which is another reason why we have to have a substantive discussion of this provision.

As Rahui Katene said, Māori Party members are out consulting their networks now that they are allowed to, because they did not have to hold their confidences past half past 9 this morning, I think Rahui said. There is clearly not only a Green and Māori Party MPs debate in this Committee but there is a community debate starting up in relation to some questions. For example, the provisions in the Children, Young Persons, and their Families Act, in section 283, subsections (a) to (n),

cover all of the different penalties that can be applied to young people, short of conviction. One of the first of these penalties, as my colleague David Clendon mentioned, comes up, in subsection (b), and is admonishment. The idea that someone in 2011 who is admonished for often the most trivial of offences in the Youth Court should then have their fingerprints and all kinds of things preserved is against the modern concept of justice, and youth justice in particular.

We have in this Parliament passed legislation like the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act, etc., reflecting a more modern concept of justice that we do not want to tar offenders with things they may have committed in the past. Surely, an 11-year-old committing a minor offence that is dealt with by admonishment in a Youth Court is not the sort of offence that should be necessarily followed by collection of all kinds of personal details and fingerprints, etc. We want to create in that young person the feeling that—after their admonishment and the family telling them they have done wrong and all the rest of it—they have put all that behind them, that there is nothing in the police records in terms of identifying characteristics and fingerprints, and that they can go on to a whole new life. They might have shoplifted a packet of chewing gum or something like that. The Labour speaker Carol Beaumont said that it was good to have a debate on the causes of crime. Well, this provision is actually a good point for a discussion of the causes of crime. One of the problems of repeat offending, including Māori offending—and I really respect what Rahui Katene said about Māori offending and Pākehā and all the rest of it—is people getting alienated from the system by feeling that they are unjustly targeted. To have a softer provision, whereby all this stuff is not kept on someone who is admonished in a Youth Court for stealing a packet of chewing gum, is one way of getting rid of that alienation and reducing repeat offending. That is all modern thinking in relation to responses to crime, particularly youth crime, and is much modern than what existed in Police Act 1958, which has been referred to in the debate. The question of urgency and why we need it—and David Clendon said this now—relates to the argument that there will be piles of court cases and huge amounts of money. Annette King came up with the figure of $6 million. In fact, the regulatory impact statement put out by the police says that possibly 20 percent of cases where identifying information was collected on young kids and used in a subsequent case would be appealed and could cost $6.2 million. A bit of common sense would say that when kids and their families have been through that process, they do not want to resurrect it. In something like 99 percent of cases they will not go through the appeal stuff and cost the country millions of dollars and all the rest of it. If members do not believe David Clendon and me on that, then perhaps that is why we should have a whole process around this bill. At the select committee we could get in lawyers and people from Child, Youth and Family to tell us what the situation is, whether there would be a lot of appeals, and what the advantages or disadvantages are of not collecting all this identifying information on some people who have been subject to minor penalties, diversion, admonishment, and what not in the Youth Court. Why should we not have that discussion? There is a certain embarrassment amongst the Labour and National speakers about this being retrospective legislation, and there has been a lot of criticism of retrospective legislation by the legal profession. I think that is another very strong reason for not supporting this bill and for going through a proper process where we can have all of the discussion. Even the whole question of the relationship between the Policing Act 2008 and the Police Act 1958 could be discussed. I have not had time as a Green Party speaker here to look at all the amendments to the 1958 Act. I know that that Act did not deal with the situation of a Youth Court because that was not established until 1989.