Young Adults in the Criminal Justice System – A Principled Framework for Reform

This research project will analyse and discuss a principled framework for reform of how the criminal justice system in Aotearoa New Zealand deals with young adults (aged 18 to mid-twenties).

About the project

This project will:

  • Assess whether principle and evidence support special consideration for young adults in the criminal justice system in Aotearoa New Zealand,
  • Discuss how other areas of law and policy recognise the transition to adulthood and what this should mean for the criminal justice system,
  • Consider the adequacy of existing ways of recognising young adulthood in Aotearoa New Zealand’s criminal justice system, such as the youth discount in sentencing,
  • Use comparative examples to explore two broad conceptual frameworks for reform of court-based responses to young adults: treating young through the existing youth court system or aspects of it, or recognising a ‘third system’ with separate provision for this age group,
  • Make recommendations on whether reform in practice, policy and law should occur and what possible models could be explored.


Grant amount

$28,114 for work in 2021 and 2022


About Associate Professor Nessa Lynch

Dr Lynch’s primary research interest is the criminal law and the criminal justice system as it applies to children and young persons. She has published books, chapters and journal articles on issues in youth justice; particularly around principled approaches to children and youth who commit very serious offences such as murder. Her secondary research area is in biometrics and state surveillance, particularly DNA and facial recognition technology. She has a keen interest in how academic scholarship translates to evidence-based and principled policy and practice. She has spent time on secondment at the New Zealand Ministry of Justice and is a member of the Government’s Data Ethics Advisory Group, and was recently a member of the  Law Commission’s Expert Advisory Group on the review of the DNA legislation. She has wide international networks in youth justice and has advised a range of international state bodies and non-governmental organisations.

Contact person for this project

Associate Professor Nessa Lynch