Assessment and treatment of young offenders: How far have we come and where are we heading?

Dr Clare Calvert1

1Regional Youth Forensic Service, Auckland, New Zealand


The issue of how to deal with children and young people who offend has been in debate since before the beginning of the nineteenth century. The early Youth Justice systems dealt with children in much the same way as adults. They were put in prisons, transported abroad and even hanged in some cases.  Although the first attempts to separate young offenders from adult offenders was over 220 years ago, treatment remained poor and Youth Justice policy, law and procedures have undergone major changes over time.

This presentation will outline a brief history of Youth Justice focusing on the UK, NZ and USA. The oscillations between a focus on child welfare and criminal risk will be discussed, with reference to key factors which influenced these changes in direction, such as the United Nations ‘Beijing Rules’, ‘Riyadh Guidelines’ and the Bulger murder in the UK.

The current Youth Justice model in NZ, revolutionized by the The Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, also known as the Children and Young People’s Wellbeing Act 1989 will be presented, and the concept of restorative justice will be discussed in relation to rates of recidivism and what the future may hold for Youth Justice.


Dr Calvert is a UK trained Clinical Psychologist who has worked in New Zealand since 2009. She has worked extensively across adult inpatient and community forensic mental health settings in both the UK and NZ. Her current role with the Regional Youth Forensic Service (RYFS) in Auckland involves assessing young people who are before the Youth Court and may have mental health needs. She provides Section 333 reports to the Youth Court, as well as Fitness To Stand Trial assessments and reports. Dr Calvert also provides clinical supervision and consultation regarding such issues.

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