Court out for first offenders
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.