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Nachtengel
Wednesday, September 30th, 2009, 04:45 AM
The Youth Court will sit at Manurewa Marae from November, and supporters say justice served in a Maori setting won't be soft.

Principal Youth Court judge Andrew Becroft, Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples, police, corrections, Child Youth and Family and other community leaders yesterday launched the initiative - the second of its kind in the country.

Gisborne's Te Poho o Rawiri Marae spearheaded the initiative last year, but Mr Sharples said Auckland was the logical extension of it because of the population base - one in four Maori live there.

Justice on marae was often far more uncomfortable for offenders than courtrooms, he said.

"Tamaiti [a boy] can stand in front of his family and be accounted for - it's easy to go to a Pakeha court and go ae, ae, [yeah, yeah] and give the fingers and go out.

"But to stand in a court at your marae with your ancestors and your aunties, uncles and cousins - it's scary. Some will think it's soft but this is the hard option."

For those with no connection to their roots, this intervention would hopefully be the start of an end to reoffending, he said.

"This is how we reconnect them. A lot of the children are going to court and finding their Maori side - for many it's disappeared and its important we've got to give them back to them. We've got to do something to change things."

Judge Becroft said marae were good places for open discussion.

The number of Maori involved with the justice system - 60 per cent of those in custody were Maori - was unacceptable.

But this was a start at reducing those numbers, and putting justice where it arguably belonged - in the community.

"It is not a separate justice system. But it's a genuine attempt to adapt and to meld within the rules the existing system."

Judge Greg Hikaka will sit at Manurewa once every two weeks.

He said it was too early to say how many would go through the marae but offenders would have to be referred by the court after a family group conference.

That conference would set out a plan to address the young person's offending which would be monitored by the marae.

But victims would not be left out of the picture as they would have to agree to it, the judge said.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10599216