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Diversion programs are theoretically available to all Victorians facing their first minor criminal charge. These programs give people the opportunity to be “diverted” from the justice system and avoid a criminal record, with the opportunity to participate in rehabilitative programs and contribute to the community. It has been shown that participation in such programs reduces the likelihood of reoffending. However, a key barrier to being accepted into these programs is the requirement that the prosecution consent.

Where the prosecution refuse to consent to diversion, this decision is not made in open Court and cannot be subject to review. Such a lack of transparency creates great scope for inconsistency and prejudice, which detrimentally impacts minority groups.

Chapter 1 outlines the background and current legislative framework for the adult and youth diversion schemes.

Chapter 2 discusses why the diversion program is an integral part of the criminal justice system.

Chapter 3 identifies the issues that are impeding the success of the diversion schemes and focuses on the impact of diversion schemes on vulnerable groups, namely, Aboriginal and Torres Islander (ATSI) people, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, and survivors of family violence.

Chapter 4 highlights the legal issues implicit within the current legislative framework governing adult and youth diversion.

Chapter 5 presents our recommendations for legislative and practical reforms, based on our research and consultations with key stakeholders.

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