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Petition Started To Oppose 'Flawed' Ram Raid Bill

A ram raid in Takanini, Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Mohammad Alafeshat

Community leaders and youth advocates are gathering signatures for a petition against the ram raid bill, saying it will cause more harm than good.

Introduced by the last Labour government, the Ram Raid Offending and Related Measures Amendment Bill would allow ram raid sentences of up to 10 years in jail and give police the power to prosecute children as young as 12.

In its first reading last year, former minister of justice Ginny Andersen said there was a gap in the system for young offenders.

"This bill closes that gap, and it provides a better range of tools to respond to the 12- and 13-year-olds with the most serious and persistent reoffending behaviour," Andersen said.

However, the Deputy Children's Commissioner Dr Claire Achmad said although ram raids were very threatening and frightening to communities, there was no evidence the bill would address their worries.

This week, a collective of community leaders, including doctors, youth workers and lawyers, have made a petition calling for a unified response to youth crime.

As of 7 June, the petition had over 1600 signatures.

Kick Back founder and youth worker Aaron Hendry. 

Kick Back founder and youth worker Aaron Hendry said the bill would enable children to be criminalised and increase re-offending rates.

"The bill ignores what we know about how we prevent harm in our communities, while also violating the human rights of children.

"It is also out of step with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and fails to address the root causes that contribute to children causing harm in our communities."

The collective wrote an open letter last year, asking the government to stop the bill.

"The evidence consistently shows that young people and children who cause harm in our community are some of our most structurally marginalised and vulnerable," Hendry said.

"Instead of pushing forward with this flawed bill, the collective is calling for all political parties to withdraw their support ... and instead to work together to develop a bi-partisan, evidence-based approach to address the concerns within the community."

He said the wellbeing of children should not be used as political football.

"These are children who have themselves first been harmed, who have experienced trauma, suffered abuse, been living in poverty, experiencing homelessness, housing insecurity, mental illness, addiction, are struggling with undiagnosed disabilities, and whose whānau are dealing with the impact of social exclusion and generational trauma.

"We need evidence-based solutions that will serve our communities. So, we are calling leaders to withdraw their support from the bill," Hendry said.

People Against Prisons Aotearoa was another organisation supporting the petition against the bill.

Spokesperson and criminal lecturer Emmy Rakete said it would not address the causes of youth crime.

"The ram raid bill is another attack on the poor. It does nothing to address the actual causes of youth crime, just proposing that we should put children as young as 12 in the justice system.

"It won't help, and it won't work. This bill will damage young people's lives during a critical period in which they should be preparing to enter the adult world."

The collective was planning to deliver the petition against the ram raid bill to parliament later this month.

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