The South Pacific Council of Youth and Children’s Courts Conference commenced on Tuesday September 26 and is set to conclude later today.
The conference, which included attendees from Australia, New Zealand, Tuvalu, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga and numerous Cook Islands government personnel was said to have been strongly influenced by the late John Kenning, a noted Justice of the Peace.
“I would like to pay tribute to the late ‘JK’ (John Kenning), who was very instrumental in having this conference come to the Cook Islands,” said Justice secretary Tingika Elikana.
“I would like to acknowledge his persistence, his stamina and his work that has led to the conference being here and this week we will have the opportunity to say thank you once again at his unveiling,”
Elikana then offered his opinion regarding youth offending in the Cook Islands.
“I think everyone can understand that the conventional processes that we currently go through in regards to youth offending appear not to be working.
“I personally think it is a result of the disconnections within the family unit.
“For us, and particularly for me, in Pukapuka, the family unit is the whole island, it is our children. We don’t say ‘my’ children, we say ‘our’ children.
“And that is the kind of approach needed here.”
He said that under the new Crimes Act, dealing with youth offending would focus on conflict resolution and involving family members when undertaking court issues, rather than leaving youngsters with criminal records at the young age of 16.
“I am glad that through this conference we will be able to have a collective approach at addressing youth and children’s issues and offending here in the Cook Islands, rather than a one dimensional approach which all of us understand doesn’t work in this day and age,” Elikana said.
The conference, which saw Youth Court judges, senior magistrates, school counsellors and police officers share insights into youth offending, ends today.