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Published: 28 March 2014
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas

Criminal charges may not land you a criminal record

  • A criminal record can derail your career
  • A Diversion Order can be an option
  • Diversion Orders are normally restricted to first offenders
  • If refused, you need legal help

Most people appreciate that it's important to try and avoid a criminal record, even though you've committed an offence. A criminal slip up can derail job prospects for certain types of employment, and also count against you should you ever again commit a crime.

It's surprising then that diversion orders are little known and even less well understood.

Still, if you are charged for the first time with a minor offence, such as a traffic violation, minor assault charges or property offences you should understand how diversion operates.

After you are charged, request of the police that you be issued with a diversion notice. If the police are sympathetic they will in turn consult with the victim. Once past that point, you'll be interviewed by the diversion coordinator at court for a summary of events that the magistrate will then consider for a decision.

If diversion is granted the charges against you will be dismissed and you won't receive a criminal record. Conditions will be attached however, which could well involve you having to write an apology to the victim, thanking the informant, making a donation to a charity, or undertake a course say in alcohol awareness. Typically also, you will have to stay out of trouble for a period.

It's not a guilty plea

While diversion does not require a guilty plea, it does require that you agree with a police account of what happened. The court will also ask if you intend to plead guilty if diversion is not granted, so think carefully then before applying for diversion. You should get legal advice before applying for diversion as a diversion order can effect things like having to pay compensation or for property damage.

You can arrange to see a private lawyer before your court date or you can speak to the legal aid duty lawyer at court.

You can also attend a community legal centre where you'll be advised but most likely will not be represented at court.

See community legal centres here. and you can contact legal aid here:

Despite some drawbacks, diversion is certainly worth considering if you're a first time offender.

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