Court bid to release youth from secure care

October 26, 2017 | By More

A High Court judge has been asked to force the State to find a placement for a 16-year-old youth being held at the youth justice facility near Christchurch because there is nowhere else for him to go.

Justice Rachel Dunningham heard legal argument today and says she will issue her decision before the weekend.

Defence counsel Grant Tyrrell had asked the High Court to issue a writ of habeas corpus to release the youth from what he sees as secure custody at Te Puna Wai at Rolleston.

The youth has been at the facility since September 6. He was remanded on bail by the Youth Court that day, but the chief executive of the Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Vulnerable Children decided to place him in Te Puna Wai where he is doing a technology training course.

The youth has a history of absconding and violence. He ended up before the Youth Court for an alleged assault on a staff member at a care residence.

The youth cannot be named because of his age.

Crown prosecutor Chris Lange said a placement was available for the youth at another centre from the second week of November. He would be “gradually transitioned” from Te Puna Wai to the new facility where he would have “individual wrap-around services”.

He said other means of caring for the child – who is under a care and protection order – had been considered including looking after him at a motel or assigning him a tracker, but it was decided to put him in a residence placement at Te Puna Wai.

The severity of the youth’s verbal and physical abuse meant it was assessed as unsafe for him to be placed “within a community setting”, he said.

Justice Dunningham noted that the Ministry was looking at other placements for the youth. “Other processes are on-going and they have all got this young man’s welfare at heart.”

Mr Tyrrell said: “In a functioning democracy, we don’t detain people because it’s easier. He is a citizen in a democracy and his rights must be heeded. We can’t have an organ of the State detaining young people because it is the easiest option today. They have to find other options.”

He said the youth was being held at a facility with “very serious youth offenders”.

Justice Dunningham said that the Ministry had “absolutely the best of intentions – they are grappling with this young man and his needs.”

Last week, a Youth Court judge in Christchurch allowed a teenager who admitted a robbery charge, to be released from his sentence early after he had spent several months at Te Puna Wai. He had earlier been held for about five days in the Christchurch Police Station cells because there was no placement available for him.

Early this year, another Youth Court judge warned that he believed the continued detention of another youth in the police cells potentially breached the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children.

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Category: Focus

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