Criminal Justice Diversion Program

Criminal Justice Diversion Program

The Criminal Justice Diversion Program is governed by section 59 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009. The Program provides mainly first time offenders with the opportunity to avoid a criminal record by undertaking conditions that benefit the offender, victim and the community as a whole.

In January 1997, the Magistrates' Court of Victoria, in co-operation with Victoria Police, piloted the scheme at Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court. Senior police, courts and the legal profession reviewed the pilot and a revised scheme commenced at Broadmeadows and Heidelberg Courts in November 2000. It is now available to all Magistrates' Courts throughout Victoria.

Benefits

The Diversion Program is aimed at improving the efficient use of court resources by facilitating the development of an alternative and/or complementary procedure to normal case processes. The Magistrates' Court intend the program to provide benefits to the victim (if any), the accused and the community as a whole. Victims are actively engaged and are invited to participate in the process, including on matters regarding restitution and how the offence has affected them; victims frequently receive letters of apology from the accused. Accused benefit from the program by avoiding an accessible criminal record, by receiving appropriate assistance through rehabilitation, counselling and/or treatment, whilst the community benefits by way of donations or unpaid community work to various charities or local community projects. 

Eligibility

The matter must meet the following criteria before a Diversion can be recommended:

  • the offence is triable summarily
  • the offence is not subject to a minimum or fixed sentence or penalty (except demerit points)
  • the accused acknowledges responsibility for the offence
  • prosecution must consent for the matter to proceed by way of Diversion.

The existence of prior convictions does not disqualify an accused from the program but the court will take this into account in deciding whether the Diversion Program is appropriate. Offences under the Road Safety Act 1986 may be suitable for Diversion. However, demerit points are still recorded with VicRoads for the relevant regulated offences. Anyone can apply for Diversion throughout the court process. However, Diversion cannot commence without the prosecution’s consent.

Diversion Notice

The filing of a Diversion Notice indicates the prosecution has consented to the Diversion process. The Magistrate or Judicial Registrar must then also deem the accused suitable before the matter may proceed by way of Diversion.

Arranging a referral to the Diversion Program

As detailed above, the prosecution must provide consent for the matter to be considered for Diversion.

If you have not received a Diversion Notice, or had discussions about the possibility of receiving a referral to the Criminal Justice Diversion Program with the prosecuting agency e.g Victoria Police, you  should contact the Informant to discuss the matter. Depending on how soon your Court date is you can do this in writing or by telephone. The informant is the person who has charged you. The informant's contact details should appear on the first page of the charge sheets.

In discussing Diversion with the Informant, it is advisable that you are prepared to discuss your personal situation/circumstances. Relevant factors may include employment status, any prior criminal history, any voluntary work the you may have performed in the community, an explanation offered for the offence and the impact that a criminal record will have on your life and future.This information will assist the Informant in making a decision about the appropriateness of a referral to the Program.

 If the informant decides that a referral to the Diversion Program is appropriate, you should request a copy of the Notice from the Informant. You should then provide the Court where the case is to be heard with a copy of the Notice. This is very important in order to minimise delay.

 It should be noted that, dependent on workloads, that the informant may have limited availability. If the Informant is unavailable you may wish to discuss the prospect of Diversion with the Informant’s Sergeant if the prosecuting agency is the Victoria Police, as contact can often take time to establish.

Court Hearings

Victims

Where a charge involves a victim, the Court seeks the victim’s view of the matter. This may include: whether the victim agrees with the course of action the amount of compensation sought for damage to property how the crime has affected the victim. Victims are not obliged to respond to the Court’s contact. However, the victim is entitled to express his/her view by way of letter or in person on the day of hearing. The Court will notify victims of the hearing’s outcome, if requested to do so.

Interview

Prior to any appearance before a Magistrate or Judicial Registrar, the Diversion Co-ordinator interviews the accused to identify the major issues in the case and to advise the Magistrate or Judicial Registrar of appropriate services for the accused. This interview assists the presiding Magistrate or Judicial Registrar and lessens the required amount of court time.

In Court

A Diversion hearing is conducted in open court before a Magistrate or Judicial Registrar. The Magistrate or Judicial Registrar assesses the suitability of the accused and a plan is developed. The plan may require the accused to:

  • apologise to the victim in a letter or in person
  • compensate the victim
  • attend for counselling and/or treatment
  • perform voluntary work
  • donate money to a charitable organisation, local community project or the like
  • attend a defensive driving course and/or Road Trauma Awareness Seminar
  • any other condition the Magistrate or Judicial Registrar deems appropriate.
The charges are adjourned while the plan is undertaken.
 
Matters deemed unsuitable
In the event that the Magistrate or Judicial Registrar determines the case as not suitable for Diversion, the charges are referred back to the Mention Court of the Magistrates’ Court.
 
Completion Hearing

The accused is not required to attend on the adjourned date (the completion hearing) unless requested to do so by the Magistrate or Judicial Registrar, or if any of the conditions of the plan are outstanding. It is the responsibility of the accused to file proof that all conditions are complete prior to the completion hearing.

Conditions Complete

If the conditions are successfully completed, the charges are discharged with no finding of guilt and the outcome is recorded in a similar manner as an Official Warning. The record is not available to the public, including potential employers.

Conditions Not complete

If the accused does not successfully complete the conditions, the matter is referred back to the Mention Court of the Magistrates’ Court as if the matter was being listed for the first time and all information regarding Diversion is removed from the file.

Related Practice Direction

Practice Direction 1 of 2003

Criminal Justice Diversion. This direction regulates proceedings in cases where diversionary programs may be offered to offenders.

Area of Legislation: 

Contacts Diversion Program

Diversion Program
Senior Diversion Coordinator - Magistrates' Court
Level 2, 233 William Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9628 7862
Fax: (03) 9628 7977

GPO Box 882
Melbourne VIC 3001
Email: melbournediversion@magistratescourt.vic.gov.au

Diversion Coordinators are located at each of the following courts:

Ballarat(03) 5336 6295
Bendigo(03) 5440 4115
Broadmeadows(03) 9221 8900
Dandenong(03) 9767 1310
Frankston(03) 9784 5711
Geelong(03) 5225 3386
Heidelberg(03) 8488 6700
Latrobe Valley(03) 5116 5205
Melbourne(03) 9628 7982
(03) 9628 7998
melbournediversion@magistratescourt.vic.gov.au
Ringwood(03) 9871 4476
Shepparton(03) 5821 4633
Sunshine(03) 9300 6231
Werribee(03) 9974 9300