Youth diversion includes programs and mechanisms used by police and courts to assist young people to address the underlying reasons for their offending. If completed successfully the police and courts usually don’t proceed with a charge or a conviction. This is a win win. The young people get the help they need and are very unlikely to re-offend. Evaluations of diversion programs show they are extremely effective and much more cost effective that court convictions and even higher level sentencing such as supervisory orders, probation and detention.
Youth & community organisations including Youthlaw and the Smart Justice For Young People Coalition have campaigned for many years for ‘youth diversion’ to be a mandatory (ie legislated) in the Children’s Court as it is in the adult court system & that diversion be adequately funded to provide effective programs to all young people needing them.
Prior to the state election in 2014 the Victorian Government announced it would commit $600,000 for 1 year for a pilot of pre-plea diversion programs in Children’s Court. During the election the Andrews Labor opposition also committed to funding the youth diversion pilots, to legislate diversion and invest in state-wide diversion programs.
5 pilots are currently being tested and evaluated. The providers are Jesuit Social Services and Youth Support Advocacy Service (YSAS). The pilots are at the courts in Dandenong, Broadmeadows, Sunshine and Werribee. JSS is the sole provider in rural court of Ballarat and satellite courts of Ararat and Stawell. Under the program assessment for diversion takes place at court, with tailored diversion plans involving either an apology, anger management program, or case management (up to 12 to 14 weeks). See the Age article about the pilot
In April 2016 we welcomed the Andrews Government’s 2016/17 Victorian Budget commitment to on-going funding of diversion & bail support . Bail support operates similar to diversion linking young people to services and supports they require. This can include housing, mental health and therapeutic services.
- $5.6 million over two years for a youth diversion program in the Children’s Court, and
- $1 million plus over two years to expand the Youth Justice Bail Supervision program.
The Children’s Court Youth Diversion Scheme was introduced in January 2017 and runs in all Children’s Courts across Victoria.
In September 2017 the Children and Justice Legislation (Youth Justice Reform) Act 2017 was passed in Parliament and created a statutory youth diversion scheme, with Victoria Police still being required to consent /approve a young person being referred to diversion.
What action do we want?
- We want on-going funding of diversion beyond the current 2 year commitment.
- Amendment to the statutory youth diversion scheme so that a Magistrate can order diversion without the consent of Victoria Police.
- Funding of a state-wide cautioning program that links young people to the supports they require.
- Adequate funding for bail support programs and bail supervision.
Further info on diversion & cautioning
Article in the Sunday Age ( 2014 )
In 2014 we also produced a video providing the perspective of young people. See this video Youth Diverison Works video.
In November 2013 SJFYP held a briefing on youth diversion at Parliament House to give parliamentarians more information on youth diversion.
In October 2012 Youthlaw and our partners in the Smart Justice for Young People Coalition responded to the State Government’s Diversion Discussion Paper ‘Practical Lessons, Fair Consequences’. Our submission highlighted inconsistent and inequitable access to diversion across the state. Our key recommendation was for legislated pre-plea diversion in the Children’s Court and adequate funding of it.