Court out for first of­fend­ers

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Southern Gazette - Su­sanne Reilly

A trial in the South East Metro area will take low-harm, first-time of­fend­ers out of the court sys­tem.

FOR the next 12 months, South East Metropoli­tan po­lice will give first-time, low-level crim­i­nal of­fend­ers the chance to re­deem them­selves with­out go­ing to court.

The dis­trict will trial Turn­ing Point, an ini­tia­tive to di­vert lowharm, first-time of­fend­ers out of the court sys­tem.

South East Metro Turn­ing Point man­ager Sergeant Phil Ward said the ob­jec­tives of the pro­gram were to help first-time of­fend­ers ad­dress per­sonal is­sues driv­ing their of­fend­ing, im­prove vic­tim sat­is­fac­tion lev­els, re­duce the rate of re-of­fend­ing, and re­duce de­mand on polic­ing ser­vices and the court sys­tem. To be el­i­gi­ble for the pro­gram, par­tic­i­pants must live in the dis­trict and have com­mit­ted an of­fence in the dis­trict.

They must be first-time of­fend­ers and the of­fence must be lowlevel, which in­cludes steal­ing, fraud and dam­age of­fences, dis­or­derly be­hav­iour, low-level drug of­fences and non-se­ri­ous as­saults.

Sgt Ward said re­search showed about 50 per cent of all of­fend­ers were first-time of­fend­ers.

“Based upon last year’s sta­tis­tics, we are an­tic­i­pat­ing around 1100 first-time of­fend­ers would be el­i­gi­ble to par­tic­i­pate in the Turn­ing Point pro­gram in the next 12 months,” he said. “Turn­ing Point is in­tended to pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple who have made a gen­uine mis­take to avoid hav­ing to go to court and risk re­ceiv­ing a crim­i­nal record.

“For those gen­uine par­tic­i­pants, we will sup­port them to get the help they need, which can only ben­e­fit the com­mu­nity in the long term.”

Sgt Ward said of­fend­ers would be asked to con­sider the pro­gram as an al­ter­na­tive to go­ing to court.

“As Turn­ing Point is a vol­un­tary pro­gram, the of­fender re­tains the right to de­cline to par­tic­i­pate,” he said.

“In that event, they will be pro­cessed as nor­mal and sent to court. If the per­son ac­cepts the Turn­ing Point op­tion, they would be re­quired to at­tend an ap­point­ment with the Turn­ing Point man­age­ment team within 72 hours.”

Dur­ing their meet­ing, the par­tic­i­pant would be of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to en­ter into an agree­ment stip­u­lat­ing cer­tain con­di­tions and re­me­dial ac­tions.

“I am con­fi­dent we will see re­duced rates of re-of­fend­ing among our par­tic­i­pants, as we will be link­ing them in with com­mu­nity ser­vice providers to sup­port them,” Sgt Ward said.

“I also be­lieve we will see an im­prove­ment in vic­tim sat­is­fac­tion lev­els once the public be­comes aware of the ob­jec­tives of the pro­gram. This is not a soft op­tion; in many in­stances, the agree­ments will be more oner­ous upon the par­tic­i­pant than at­tend­ing court.”

Po­lice Min­is­ter Liza Har­vey said: “Turn­ing Point is about at­tempt­ing to stop the cy­cle of crim­i­nal be­hav­iour be­fore it even has a chance to es­tab­lish.”

The trial will also run in Broome.

Im­age: Thinkstock

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