In Victoria, diversion has historically operated through the pre-court Victoria Police cautioning program. There are a number of eligibility criteria for police to consider when deciding whether a caution is appropriate. Cautions are most often issued to first-time offenders; however, police may issue more than one caution to an individual. The young person in question must admit guilt and there must be sufficient evidence to prove guilt before police may issue a caution.
Young people who are detected using and/or possessing a small quantity of an illicit drug can be referred to the Drug Diversion Caution Program. This involves a caution being administered to the young person and them being referred to an assessment and drug program conducted by the DHHS. A young person is still eligible to be referred to this program, even if they have prior court appearances.
The Ropes Program was developed in 2002 to provide a diversion option for young people appearing in the Children’s Court for the first time.
Other eligibility requirements include:
• the offence must be within the Children’s Court jurisdiction;
• the young person must be between 12–18 years;
• the young person must admit to committing the offence;
• the young person must not previously have participated in the Ropes Program;
• the police informant must recommend the young person for the program;
• the young person and their parent or guardian must consent to participation; and
• the presiding judicial officer must authorise participation in the program.
The program involves completion of a set of physical tasks (low and high ropes) and discussion sessions. It seeks to improve relations between young people and the police.
If the course is successfully completed, the young person is not required to appear at court on the next court date and the charges are struck out. This means the young person will not have a criminal record.
The Youth Diversion Program is a state-wide, court-referred, community based diversion program for young offenders who acknowledge their offence and have little or no history of offending. Offenders who successfully complete the program do not have a finding of guilt listed on their record. Diversion can only be ordered by the court if the prosecution consents. For more information, see www.childrenscourt.vic.gov.au.