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Diversion in the Victorian Magistrates Court: A Comprehensive Guide

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This article Diversion in the Victorian Magistrates Court: A Comprehensive Guide is written by Jervis Dean, Defence Lawyer, Emma Turnbull Lawyers, Specialist Criminal Lawyers.
Jervis is committed to highly focused preparation on his client’s cases and is a passionate defence advocate. His strong analytical skills and attention to detail set him apart from his peers.

Introduction: This guide aims to provide you with a general understanding of the diversion program in the Magistrates’ Court, including information on the relevant legislation, eligibility criteria, and the materials required to support your application.

Understanding Diversion: Diversion is a program offered by the Victorian Magistrates’ Court that allows certain offenders to avoid a criminal record by diverting them away from the formal court process. It recognises that rehabilitation and addressing underlying issues can be more effective than punishment alone. The program focuses on education, treatment, and community-based support to reduce reoffending and promote positive change. Where a matter proceeds via diversion, an offender takes responsibility for the offending though a plea of guilty is not entered. There is no formal court outcome and, once the diversion plan has been completed, the matter will not appear on a police record check as a court sentence.

Eligibility for Diversion: Not all offenders are eligible for the diversion program. Eligibility is determined based on various factors, including the nature of the offence, your criminal history, and the Court’s assessment of suitability. The legislation provides specific guidelines on eligibility criteria and considerations and the Magistrates’ Court issues Practice Directions from time to time that can direct eligibility.

Sometimes when a police officer serves a charge, it will be accompanied by a notice of recommendation for diversion. If you have not received a notice recommending diversion, your lawyer can make representations to the police in an attempt to have them agree to diversion for you. At present, you can only receive diversion where it is recommended by the police informant (the officer who charged you). In some cases, such as where there is an allegation of family violence, a senior sergeant must provide the recommendation.

When considering whether to recommend diversion, police will often take into account the behaviour of the accused person during the arrest process, whether admissions were made to the alleged offending, the seriousness of the offence and the impact, if any, on the victim.

Materials Required to Support the Application: When applying for diversion, it is important to provide as much material and information to support your application as you can gather. The following materials are commonly required:

  1. Letter of Apology: Write a sincere letter of apology expressing remorse and responsibility for the offending. This letter demonstrates your understanding of the impact of your actions and your commitment to positive change.
  2. Character References: Obtain character references from individuals who can speak to your good character, personal development, and commitment to rehabilitation. These references should highlight your positive attributes, community involvement, and the potential for successful diversion. Your lawyer can provide you with a guide for a helpful character reference.
  3. Relevant Documentation: Gather any relevant documentation that supports your case, such as certificates of completion for educational programs, evidence of employment or community service, or proof of ongoing counselling or treatment.
  4. Personal Statement: Prepare a personal statement detailing your understanding of the offense, the steps you have taken to address the underlying issues, and your commitment to avoiding future criminal behaviour.
  5. Supporting Reports: If applicable, provide any relevant reports from professionals, such as psychologists, counsellors, or social workers, outlining your progress, treatment, and suitability for diversion.

It is essential to consult with a legal professional to ensure you gather the appropriate materials specific to your case in order to satisfy the requirements of the Magistrates’ Court.

Seeking Legal Advice: Navigating the diversion program can be complex, and it is crucial to seek legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances. The difference between walking away with no criminal record or not can have long lasting impacts on your employment prospects or travel plans.

Conclusion: Understanding the diversion program and its requirements in the Magistrates’ Court is crucial for individuals seeking to address their offenses and avoid a criminal record. This pamphlet has provided an overview of the legislation, eligibility criteria, and the materials required to support your diversion application. For detailed information, specific legal advice, and assistance with your application, consult a qualified legal professional or community legal services.

Note: This information serves as a general guide only and should not be considered legal advice. For accurate and individual information, please book a consult with one of our specialist lawyers.

About the Directors:

Emma Turnbull is a passionate advocate for justice, equality, and empowerment. With her deep commitment to making a positive impact, she has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of individuals facing prosecution by the State and promoting social change.

“I firmly believe that each and every one of us has the power to create meaningful change. It starts by finding our voices, standing up for what is right, and ensuring that everyone, whether they have a five day or three month jury trial, receives a fair hearing. My goal is that win or lose, every client feels they have received a fair trial, with their voice heard and their best defence put forward.”

Adrian Lewin is a seasoned criminal lawyer renowned for his unwavering dedication to defending the rights of individuals facing legal challenges. With his extensive experience and expertise in criminal law, Adrian has successfully represented clients in a wide range of complex cases. Known for his strategic thinking and meticulous preparation, he tirelessly fights for justice, ensuring that every client receives the strongest possible defence.