The Youth Court is a vital part of the structure created by the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 to respond to offending by young people aged 14 to 16. The Youth Court is intended to operate in a more personal, individualised way than the adult courts - in keeping with young people's levels of maturity. The Court also recognises the importance of effective intervention so that young people do not progress to adult crime - with all the attendant costs to themselves, their family/whānau, the widercommunity and the state which that entails.
The Christchurch Youth Drug Court (YDC) Pilot, which has been operating since March 2002, has provided an enhanced Youth Court process to address the alcohol and drug dependency issues of young people appearing in court. We know that alcohol and/or other drug abuse are often significant factors in youth offending. The aim of the YDC has been to facilitate better service delivery to these young people in an effort to reduce their offending.
The current report is the second stage of the YDC Pilot evaluation. An earlier report, Process Evaluation of the Christchurch Youth Drug Court Pilot (2004) by Dr Sue Carswell, examined the operation of the YDC over its first 18 months. That report identified the strengths of the YDC as the judicial continuity (the fact that the same judge dealt with the young person each time he or she appeared in court), the strong multidisciplinary team approach and interagency co-ordination.
The current report is a follow-up assessment of the 30 young people who participated in the YDC Pilot during its first 12 months of operation. It looks at levels of reoffending by these young people in the year after leaving the YDC, and also includes the results of interviews with some of the young people and their family/whānau about the effect that participation in the YDC has had on their lives. While the small sample size means that conclusions must be drawn with caution this report will be of considerable assistance in assessing the efficacy of this approach.
The pilot's overall objectives were to:
- Improve the young people's health and social functioning and to decrease their alcohol and/or other drug use;
- Reduce crime associated with alcohol and/or other drug use; and
- Reduce criminal activity.
The evaluation of the pilot was divided into two phases. The first phase was a process evaluation which examined the operations of the YDC for the first eighteen months (14 March 2002 to August 2003). That report was published in November 2004 (Carswell, 2004). The second phase of the evaluation, the subject of this report, follows up the same sample of thirty young people twelve months after they have left the YDC, including an examination of offending patterns post-exit.