New Children’s Court youth diversion program

• Napthine Government to establish a new statewide youth diversion program
• More than $7 million to help divert young people way from a life of crime
• Comprehensive pilot program run by Children’s Court to inform statewide roll-out

A re-elected Napthine Government will establish a statewide youth diversion program through the Children’s Court of Victoria that will help young people turn away from crime and get their life back on track.

Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge today announced that a re-elected Coalition Government will introduce a legislated pre-plea diversion program in the Children’s Court, backed up with more than $7 million in funding over four years.

The Napthine Government has also provided funding of more than $600,000 to the Children’s Court to work in partnership with youth justice providers to fund the first 12-months of a comprehensive pilot of court-directed youth diversion at venues across the State.

“This commitment means that for the first time, Victoria will have a consistent, statewide youth diversion program that will enable eligible children and young people – particularly first-time offenders and those at low-risk of reoffending – to be placed on a diversion plan before entering a formal guilty plea,” Ms Wooldridge said.

The successful completion of a mandated, court-based diversion scheme will result in the charge being dismissed and the young person avoiding a criminal record.

“A pre-plea scheme might require young offenders to undertake rehabilitation or alcohol and drug counselling, leading to better outcomes for themselves and also for the community.

“The Napthine Government’s pre-plea diversion program will help prevent young people from progressing further into the criminal justice system,” Ms Wooldridge said.

The final design of the statewide youth diversion program will be informed by the evaluation of the comprehensive pilot program, led by the Children’s Court.

“It is important that the development of a statewide youth diversion scheme is based on solid data and sound advice about what works and what doesn’t,” Attorney-General Robert Clark said.

“The pilot program will enable the collection and analysis of a wide range of data and other information, which will underpin the development of a legislative scheme.

“There is good evidence to show that youth diversion programs delivered early in the criminal justice process can be effective at changing offending behaviours and preventing a young person’s progression to more serious crime, provided the diversion program is well designed and implemented,” Mr Clark said.

The Children’s Court will shortly commence a competitive tendering process to determine which youth diversion services will be provided at selected venues of the Children’s Court. The pilot is expected to commence early in 2015.