Branded for life: New Zealand’s youth justice system

The young offenders who do end up in court are a small but damaged high-risk group. Whereas hardliners tend to portray them as a tough and increasingly sophisticated group unafraid of authority, Becroft says that is an “utter misunderstanding”.

“These aren’t sophisticated young people. They are deeply damaged, often severely victimised, severely traumatised, severely abused young kids and it would be wrong to mistake the outward swagger, which I don’t think has changed much, and the outward aggression with a sophisticated, studied, calculated approach. The normal New Zealander would be deeply shocked to understand how damaged and how abused most of the kids we see have been.”