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Child and youth offending patterns - research reports

Insights MSD has developed four research papers into areas where there has historically been a lack of research and a gap in evidence of effectiveness.

The reports are significant pieces of work that fill an important information gap by documenting evidence on reoffending outcomes observed for particular groups of children and young people who offend.

They are:

Offending by children in New Zealand

This research report aims to fill some key information gaps around the profile of child offenders in New Zealand and their patterns of offending and reoffending.

The findings from this research will inform future work under the cross-agency Youth Crime Action Plan in response to Government commitments made in September 2012 following the Social Services Select Committee’s Inquiry into the identification, rehabilitation, and care and protection of child offenders.

Reoffending patterns for participants of youth justice Family Group Conference’s held in 2011 and 2012

The Family Group Conference process seeks to hold children and young people accountable for their offending, while also encouraging them to change their behaviour and not reoffend.

This report examines the profile and patterns of reoffending for around 6,800 participants of youth justice FGCs held in the 2011 and 2012 calendar years.

Reoffending patterns of Military-style Activity Camp graduates

This report describes changes in the offending outcomes observed for 79 young people who between October 2010 and December 2013 graduated from 11 Military-style Activity Camps (MACs) held at Te Puna Wai ō Tuhinapo youth justice residence in Christchurch. All of these young people had a post-MAC follow-up period of at least 12 months so their follow-up offending could be observed.

Reoffending patterns for recipients of Youth Court supervision orders

This report describes changes in the offending outcomes observed for young people who received one of three types of Youth Court supervision orders in the 30 month period after the Fresh Start reforms were introduced (i.e. from 1 October 2010 to 31 March 2013). Reoffending patterns are examined for the 12 month period after orders were served.

Key Findings

Child Offending

  • An estimated one in twenty New Zealand children are known to Police for offending before reaching 14 years of age. Boys are twice as likely as girls to offend as children. Māori children are approximately three times more likely than non-Māori children to become known to Police as an offender by age 14.
  • Offending by children aged 10-13 years has dropped in the last five years for both genders, across all ethnic groups and ages, across almost all offence types, and in all regions.
  • A falling youth crime rate is not unique to New Zealand, and the reasons for the fall are unclear and therefore subject to debate.
  • Much of the drop in offending by children in New Zealand has been because fewer children are becoming offenders in the first place – a very positive finding.
  • Māori children remain over-represented. This is seen not only at the front-end of the youth justice system, but flows through to other parts of the system (i.e. Child, Youth and Family and the Youth Court).
  • A complex interplay of risk factors lead to Māori children, both boys and girls, being apprehended at a greater rate than children from other ethnic groups. Broadly, attention needs to focus on two areas. Firstly, the rate of Māori children offending and entering the youth justice system in the first instance needs to be reduced. Secondly, for those children who do come in contact with the system, there needs to be effective interventions to increase the likelihood that they do not reoffend.
  • A core of persistent child offenders committed very large numbers of offences over the five year period 2009 to 2013. This supports the view that early identification and intervention is vital to steer the children onto a more positive path.


  • For both the ‘Intention to Charge’ (ITC) and court-ordered FGC cohorts, around eight out of every 10 young people were male. Māori were over-represented in both ITC and court-ordered FGCs.
  • For both cohorts, an escalation in the frequency and seriousness of offending by young people prior to the FGCs was curtailed with a reduction in both measures being observed after the FGCs.
  • The vast majority of the decrease in the number of offences after both of the FGC cohorts was due to large drops in the three most common offence divisions: theft-related, burglary and property damage.
  • Participants of ITC FGCs generally had more positive reoffending outcomes than those with court-ordered FGCs. However, this could be expected as young people who participate in ITC FGCs generally have less serious prior offending profiles than those who participate in court-ordered FGCs. It is well known that past offending is generally a good predictor of future offending, so less frequent offenders would be expected to reoffend at a lower rate than more persistent offenders.


  • Half of the 79 MAC graduates had come to the attention of Police with a new offence within four months of exiting the residence. Within six months, 66% of the graduates had reoffended and within 12 months, 86% had reoffended.
  • There was little difference in the reoffending rate of Māori and European graduates after 12 months. However, Māori were initially slower to reoffend than Europeans. After 70 days, 50% of European graduates had reoffended compared with 33% of Māori graduates.
  • Overall, there was an increase in the average frequency and seriousness of offending leading up to the MACs, followed by a reduction in both measures after graduates exited the residences.
  • The average seriousness of all the offences committed by the MAC graduates fell by 57% in the 12 months following the MACs compared to the 12 months before the MACs.
  • In the 12 months after completing the MAC, of the 76% who reduced their frequency of offending, 14% did not reoffend at all, and 62% did reoffend, but committed fewer offences afterwards.

Supervision-type Orders

  • There was an overall reduction in both the frequency and seriousness of offending in the 12 months following all three types of supervision orders compared to the 12 months prior to the orders.
  • These reductions were proportionally larger for stand-alone Supervision orders and Supervision with Activity orders than for Supervision with Residence orders. However, the young people receiving Supervision with Residence orders had more extensive offending histories than was the case for the other two types of orders.
  • Violent offending halved in the follow-up period for all three types of supervision orders.
  • European young people had slightly better offending-related outcomes in the 12 months after stand-alone Supervision orders than Māori young people. However, the reverse was the case after Supervision with Residence orders, with Māori young people generally having slightly more positive outcomes than European young people. The relationship between ethnicity and outcomes was less clear after Supervision with Activity orders.
  • The findings suggest that young people with longer Supervision with Activity orders were more likely to stop offending over the next 12 months than was the case for those with shorter Supervision with Activity orders – who more often reduced their level of offending, but did not stop completely.
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