Youth justice - separating misconceptions from facts

Published: April 2, 2020

Exploring commonly posed questions about the youth justice system, and presents insights around the seriousness of youth crime, rates of reoffending and the relationship between care and youth justice.


The report addresses the following questions:

  • Is youth offending becoming more serious?
  • Is the decrease in youth offending over the past decade due to Police behaviour or is it a true reduction?
  • Are reoffending rates for young people higher than for adults?
  • Do a large proportion of young people involved in youth justice go on to reoffend?
  • Do care-experienced young people move into the youth justice system?

Researchers used publicly available data, or data that can be freely requested, about the justice system and the young people involved in it as the basis for this analysis.

Key findings

  • Youth crime has reduced across all levels of seriousness – more so for low-level offending, leaving a higher proportion of more serious crime in the youth system.
  • Youth crime has reduced in other countries indicating the reduction is not likely to be solely due to Police behaviour.
  • Comparison of reoffending statistics between the youth and adult systems is not straightforward as the systems are fundamentally different.
  • Stopping young people reoffending entirely is unlikely due to the serious nature of cases and offending history dealt with. However, Oranga Tamariki interventions coincide with a reduction in the frequency and seriousness of reoffending.
  • The vast majority of young people with care and protection statutory involvement are never involved in the youth justice system.