What is diversion and when can I get it?

Diversion gives people a chance to avoid a criminal conviction for their first criminal offence. It means that the case will not go to court, and it won’t show up on your criminal record. To find out what diversion involves, read our answer to What will I have to do for diversion?.

The Police Adult Diversion Scheme is usually only available for first-time minor offences, and people still face some consequence for their actions. There is a similar scheme for first offenders who are under 17 (see What is Police Youth Aid diversion?).

Diversion may be available if:

  • it is your first offence  
  • you have admitted to committing the offence
  • the offence isn’t very serious
  • you have had your legal rights explained to you 

The types of offences usually considered too serious for diversion include:

  • Burglary or dishonesty offences
  • Violent offences including family violence
  • Sexual offences
  • Drink-driving and serious drug offences
  • Purely indictable offences (serious offences which must be tried by a jury)
  • Offences where there has been a breach of trust,
  • 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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How do I apply for diversion?

You don’t apply for the scheme - the Police Prosecution Service (PPS) decides whether or not you’re eligible.

Before you’re prosecuted, a PPS prosecutor will look at your case. The prosecutor thinks about the views of the victims, the officer dealing with the case, and you, the offender, as well as the nature and circumstances of your offence. The prosecutor then lets you and the Court know whether you can get diversion or not.

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I wasn’t given diversion but I think I should have been. Can I appeal the decision?

If you disagree with the decision not to give you diversion, or disagree with the diversion conditions, you have the right to ask for a written or verbal review of the decision. You make the request to the Prosecutor or to the Police Prosecution Service’s District Prosecution Manager and they have to make a decision within five working days of receiving your request.

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What will I have to do for diversion?

You will need to meet with the Police Diversion Officer for him or her to get a better understanding about the offending and the circumstances of the incident. You will have a chance to explain what happened and why. The Police will expect you to take responsibility for what happened.

A written agreement about changing your behaviour, preventing re-offending and making reparations can then be made between you and the Diversion Officer. Some of the typical things a diversion agreement may contain 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
  • Making reparation to the victim

When you draw up the agreement you’ll agree to a deadline for completing the conditions of your diversion. It is up to you to complete the requirements of your diversion, and when you’ve done them all, the prosecutor will let the Court know your diversion has been successfully completed. If you don’t comply with the conditions of your diversion, then prosecution continues.

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What is Police Youth Aid diversion?

The diversion scheme for children (aged 10 - 13)  and young people (aged 14 - 16), also known simply as 'police diversion', is similar to the adult diversion scheme, but is handled by Police Youth Aid (PYA). Most Police areas have one or more PYA officers. Authorised under the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989, their job is to deal with children or young people who either have offended, or are considered at risk.