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Labour MP slams Invercargill Mayor over youth offending stance

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Local Democracy Reporter

04 April 2024, 7:41 AM

Labour MP slams Invercargill Mayor over youth offending stanceLabour MP Ingrid Leary is not happy with comments made by Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark about youth crime. Photo: ODT/Supplied

A southern MP has slammed comments by the mayor of Invercargill that minors guilty of serious crime should be treated the same way as adults.

On Wednesday, Mayor Nobby Clark told RNZ it made no difference if someone was 11 or 12 years of age when it came to justice for “adult crimes”.

“They’re just absolutely bulletproof,” he said, while criticising the Youth Aid system.

Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark announced a public meeting this week to address youth crime in the city. Photo: ODT/Supplied

His remarks followed an announcement that same day he would hold a public meeting this weekend to address issues with youth crime in Invercargill.

Labour MP Ingrid Leary has hit out at the mayor’s stance, saying there was no evidence that treating children as adults in the justice system worked to prevent crime.

“In fact, the opposite is true,” she said.

“The earlier young people enter the justice system and prisons in particular . . . the more likely it is they’ll go to long term adult offending.”

Leary has been acting as a buddy-MP for Invercargill since MP Liz Craig's departure from Parliament last election. National holds the Southland seat.

Community groups and businesses had spoken to Leary about what was happening in the city.

She welcomed the public discussion on Saturday — and planned to attend — but said deprivation was at the core of the issue, as evidenced by a recent project called the Invercargill Initiative.

The Te Rourou One Aotearoa Foundation led-project found 23 percent of young people in the southern city experienced exclusion and disadvantage, which was higher than the national average.

"This is more than just youth offending, and more than just a Police issue. This is about deprivation.”

Invercargill National MP Penny Simmonds also planned to attend Saturday’s meeting, which she said would be an opportunity for people to discuss a joint approach for addressing the city’s problems.

Simmonds said local Police had told her youth offending in Invercargill was no worse than elsewhere in the country, but that a small number of young locals were causing most of the issues.

The city’s new mall had also been a target, she said.

“The coalition government has already made it clear that we want to crack down on serious youth crime.

“This includes the establishment of military-style academies.”

Southland area commander Mike Bowman said Police were generally supportive of any initiatives or discussion around issues such as youth crime, and would have a representative at the meeting.

There was public concern around youth crime in Invercargill, and the Police would work alongside community partners to do their bit, Bowman said.

Mayor Clark was approached for comment but did not respond.

Saturday’s meeting will be held at Invercargill’s Civic Theatre from 7pm.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

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