The sentencing of children and youth for murder in New Zealand

Dr Nessa Lynch

Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand,

Murder, the intentional killing of another, is considered one of the most serious, if not the most serious, offences on the statute books.  The trial and punishment of murder is generally an exception to the separate and specialized youth justice system.  This paper analyses the judicial sentencing notes relating to almost all the convictions of children and youth for murder in the 2002 to 2015 period in New Zealand, considering how the limited judicial discretion is exercised. The sentencing of such youth involves a complex interplay between penal populist policies such as mandatory minimum sentences, and the characteristics of the young person as vulnerable and of lesser culpability.


Nessa Lynch (BCL, LLM, PhD) is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington, where she teaches in the criminal law and criminal justice fields. She has a strong interest in the criminal law’s interaction with children and young persons. She has published domestically and internationally in the areas of youth justice and criminal justice including recent books:  Youth Justice in New Zealand (Thomson Reuters, 2016) and (with Liz Campbell) The Collection and Retention of DNA from Suspects in New Zealand (VUP, 2015).


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