It’s my first criminal offence – will I have to go to prison?

Not necessarily. Depending on the circumstances of the offending, you may get diversion.
Diversion is a scheme run by the Police aimed at helping first-time offenders avoid getting a criminal record, in return for agreeing to certain conditions.
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How do I go about applying for diversion?

Diversion isn’t something you apply for - it’s something that the Police Prosecution Service (PPS) offers you if they think it appropriate.

If the PPS is considering offering diversion to you they will tell you or your lawyer, and the Court, on the day of your first court appearance. The court case will be adjourned (postponed) until after you have had an interview with a Police Diversion Officer.

At the interview the Police Diversion Officer will talk to you about what diversion involves, about whether you accept responsibility for the offending and show remorse - regret - about it, and about what might be appropriate conditions of the diversion. If you show remorse and agree to the diversion conditions, the Police Diversion Officer will write up a diversion agreement for you to sign.

The Police will also consult with the victim before making a final decision on whether you will be offered diversion.

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How likely am I to be offered diversion?

You are more likely to be offered diversion if:

  • it is your first offence and 
  • you have admitted to committing the offence, and accept responsibility for it 
  • the offence is not a very serious one, and 
  • you agree to the conditions of diversion. 

You are unlikely to get diversion if you’ve committed one of the following types of offences:

  • Burglary or dishonesty offences
  • Violent offences including family violence
  • Sexual offences
  • Drink-driving and serious drug offences
  • Offences for breaching a Court order e.g. a protection order, and
  • Some other categories of offences (refer to the New Zealand Police website for further information about circumstances where diversion is not available) 

You are unlikely to be considered for diversion if:

  • you have had diversion before
  • you have previous convictions
  • previous Youth Court charges have been proven
  • the offence is serious

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What conditions would I have to agree to, to fulfil the diversion agreement?

Depending on what was agreed to in your interview with the Police Diversion Officer, your diversion agreement may include:

  • making an apology to the victim 
  • a referral to counselling, education programmes, addiction treatment or other programmes that would help prevent re-offending 
  • hours of community service 
  • making a donation of a specified sum to an approved group 
  • being part of a restorative justice process
  • paying reparation to the victim.

The diversion agreement will also include an agreed deadline for completing the conditions of your diversion.

You can decide not to continue with the diversion agreement, and go to Court. The prosecution will continue and your case will be dealt with through the courts in the normal way.

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What will happen once I have done everything on the diversion agreement?

When you have shown the Police Diversion Officer that you have completed all of the requirements of your diversion, the prosecutor will tell the Court and the charges against you will be dismissed.

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What will happen if I am not offered diversion?

If you are not offered diversion (or you are offered diversion but you don’t comply with the diversion conditions) the prosecution will continue and your case will be dealt with through the courts in the normal way.

If you disagree with a decision not to offer  you diversion, or disagree with the diversion conditions, you can ask for a written or verbal review of the decision. You make the request (verbally or in writing) to the Prosecutor or to the Police Prosecution Service’s District Prosecution Manager. You can ask your lawyer to help you with this. The Prosecutor or District Prosecution Manager has to make a decision within five working days of receiving your request.