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Alternative Action report

The Ministry of Social Development has undertaken a research project into the Reoffending patterns for youth undertaking Police Alternative Action.

The report is a significant piece of work that fills an important information gap by documenting rates of reoffending observed for children and young people who undertake Police Alternative Action. It should be noted that the research itself does not demonstrate a causal relationship between Alternative Action and reoffending rates

The value of the report is that it will support agencies to explore how we can better manage youth offending through different types of intervention, for specific groups of young people, or types of offending. This in turn will drive more in depth research, or qualitative analysis, so that we can put the right intervention in place at the right point in the process to get the best outcome.

‘Alternative Action’ is a Police diversionary response aimed particularly at lower-level youth offenders. This intervention involves a plan being put in place between the youth, his or her parents or caregivers, and Police, and if the youth completes the plan, that is the end of the matter.

Alternative Action is a Police initiative and does not require the involvement of other statutory agencies such as Child, Youth and Family (CYF), Health or Education to support their intervention.

Alternative Action is regarded as a more serious response to offending than a Police warning, but less serious than a referral to CYF to convene an intention-to-charge Family Group Conference (FGC), or prosecution in the Youth Court.

A broad outcome of the research is to show that offending in adolescence and childhood is seldom limited to a “one-off” event. International evidence shows that many young people grow out of offending, but may come to the notice of the justice system more than once before that happens. The Alternative Action research reinforces other published research in that it is difficult to stop offending in its tracks, but we can slow it down and minimise harm while the natural maturation process takes its course.

This report describes changes in the reoffending rates observed in around 17,000 cases where Alternative Action was undertaken in the 2010/11 to 2013/14 fiscal years. Reoffending was examined in detail for the 12-month period after Alternative Action was initiated, with a more brief examination being made of two-year reoffending rates.

Insights MSD has completed research into reoffending by young people who have undertaken Police Alternative Action. The report is a significant piece of work that fills an important information gap by documenting reoffending rates for one of the key diversionary interventions in the youth justice system.

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