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Alternatives to court

Sometimes a matter will not proceed automatically to a court trial or hearing. For example, the police may decide to issue an official caution or there may be an application by the prosecution or defence for a diversion program when the matter reaches court.

Official cautions

The police may issue an official caution if the offender is under 18 years old. This is usually used for a first offence and must be appropriate in the circumstances.

If the offender is over 18 years old, police may issue an official caution for a shop stealing offence or for minor drug offences (such as use and possession offences).

Diversion notices

The diversion program is an alternative to the normal court process.

Anyone can apply for diversion throughout the court process. The police, court, the offender or their solicitor can recommend and request that a diversion notice be considered. However, diversion cannot commence without the prosecution’s consent. The magistrate or judicial registrar must then also decide that the accused person is suitable before the matter may proceed by way of diversion.

For a matter to be appropriate for diversion, the offender must admit the offence. If police initiate the diversion, they must notify the victim that a diversion is being recommended and that their details will be provided to the Court Diversion Coordinator, who may contact them to ascertain their views.

The offender may be given community service or other service such as writing an apology to the victim or cleaning up graffiti. Diversion conditions could also include a monetary penalty, such as a donation paid to a charity organisation.