Help the key for young people
A 15-year-old boy who had played dodgems with motorway traffic prayed ‘‘I hope I get the help’’ in court before Judge Andrew Becroft.
The former principal youth court judge, and now the Children’s Commissioner, recalled the case at a Porirua Family Violence Prevention Network meeting in Cannons Creek on July 26.
The boy suffered posttraumatic stress disorder from having an abusive father.
‘‘He’d been stealing cars in South Auckland,’’ Judge Becroft said. ‘‘Driving them up the offramp to a motorway. He was playing literal dodgems on the motorway – luring police into high-speed chases.’’
He warned the boy before sentencing him that he was facing a spell in youth prison.
‘‘He said, ‘I know’. And then he said something to me that no boy had ever said in the past: ‘Can we have a prayer?’.’’
A police sergeant took the boy from the dock to beside his grandmother who was his only supporting family in the courtroom.
‘‘He prayed the most amazing prayer – not minimising what he did, but reflecting on his life. He said, ‘I hope I get the help’.
‘‘And there will be a whole group of children and young people in Porirua saying ‘I hope I get the help’. And you are the group, the key to opening the door to make sure they get that help.’’
Judge Becroft praised the prevention network as a ‘‘great example of community power’’ against family violence, which could be terribly over-represented in low socio-economic areas such as Cannons Creek.
The Whanau Centre in Cannons Creek co-ordinates the network. Spokesman Stephen Turnock said his organisation handled about 120 cases of family violence, or ones which had strong potential of turning violent, in Porirua last year.
There was an increasing focus on working collaboratively with other agencies to work with families, and get a clearer picture of the size of the issue.
‘‘Nothing could be more important than a communitywide approach to collaboratively reduce violence,’’ Judge Becroft said.
Family violence was a common theme among Youth Court offenders, including the boy from South Auckland.
‘‘His family were chronic drug abusers. He had been in 32 Child, Youth and Family placements by the age of 15,’’ he said.
The teen, who first got into drugs and alcohol when he was 11, was a capable young man with good potential like so many in the Youth Court.
Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft is encouraging community organisations, such as the Porirua Family Violence Prevention Network, to work together against family violence.