Young Adults in the Criminal Justice System – Lessons from International Jurisdictions

Young Adults in the Criminal Justice System – Lessons from International Jurisdictions

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Event type: Seminars

26 October 2018 from 12.00 pm - 1.00 pm 26th Oct 2018 12:00pm 26th Oct 2018 1:00pm

Socrates Room (GB238), Old Government Buildings, 55 Lambton Quay, Wellington

Dr Nessa Lynch, Faculty of Law and Dr Tom Noakes-Duncan, Restorative Justice, invite you to the above seminar:

Presented by Emeritus Professor Dr. Frieder Dünkel, University of Greifswald, Germany, with introductory commentary by Dr Nessa Lynch

National Context

In 2019, New Zealand will raise its age of penal majority to 18 for most offences, though serious offences, particularly murder and manslaughter, older youth will continue to be dealt with in the adult jurisdiction. The Expert Panel report which led to the establishment of Oranga Tamariki, and an ambitious re-imagining of care and protection and youth justice, recommended that 18 and 19-year olds be dealt with in the youth justice system due to their maturity and brain development, but this recommendation was not accepted. The other relevant context is the current reform process in the adult jurisdiction. Around 1 in 5 of prisoners are aged under 25, and addressing the reintegration and needs of this age group must be a priority in reducing the prison pipeline.

Comparative Context

Young adult offenders (18-21 year olds and even beyond) have increasingly become an issue of youth justice policy. The Council of Europe in its recommendations of 2003 (“New ways of dealing with juvenile delinquency …”) and 2008 (European Rules for Juveniles Subject to Sanctions or Measures) has emphasized that young adult offenders (18-21) could or better should be regarded as youth and sentenced accordingly. Since 1953 Germany has included young adults in the jurisdiction of youth courts. Recently Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Austria have followed suit. New evidence of developmental psychology and of neuro-scientific research on brain maturation has influenced the Netherlands’ reform of 2014, to enlarge the scope of youth justice up to the age of 23. Recently several US-states had moved towards raising the upper limit of juvenile justice to 24 or 25 years of age and to restrict or even abolish waiver-procedures of bringing serious juvenile offenders to adult courts (Massachusetts, New York etc.). The case of young adults is one of the few where new empirical evidence seems to be of influence in youth policy reform debates. The paper will summarize recent youth policy developments and present the background for justice reforms, which can be characterized as a “reinvention” of the classic educational and rehabilitative approach.


Frieder Dünkel from 1979-1992 was a senior researcher at the Max-Planck-Institute of Foreign and International Penal Law, Department of Criminology in Freiburg in the south-west of Germany. From 1992 to 2015, he was professor of criminology at the Faculty of Law, Department of Criminology, University of Greifswald in the north-east of Germany. The research at the department of criminology covers a wide range of empirical studies in juvenile criminology, penology, prisons and community sanctions, restorative justice, alcohol and drunk driving, drug policy, human rights etc. with a special emphasis on international comparative aspects (see He has widely published in these fields of research. Since 2015, Frieder Duenkel is doing research as professor emeritus in Greifswald.