Mi­nor crim­i­nal of­fend­ing es­capes con­vic­tion through grant­ing di­ver­sion

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By JOHN EDENS

Al­most $1 mil­lion was paid to char­i­ties by of­fend­ers given po­lice di­ver­sion in Queen­stown in the past 10 years. Se­nior Con­sta­ble Chris Black­ford, of Queen­stown, said al­most 200 peo­ple from 26 coun­tries in­clud­ing New Zealand were granted di­ver­sion last year, with more than $23,000 paid di­rectly to vic­tims of mi­nor of­fend­ing. On av­er­age, po­lice in Queen­stown di­verted about 300 peo­ple each year – many were Ki­wis ar­rested for driv­ing of­fences. ‘‘They at­tend a de­fen­sive driv­ing course or they go to an in­struc­tor . . . at the of­fender’s ex­pense. A lot are sent to al­co­hol coun­selling.’’ Of­fend­ers were granted di­ver­sion for acts in­clud­ing as­sault, dis­or­derly be­hav­iour, fight­ing, tres­pass­ing, shoplift­ing and wil­ful dam­age. Op­tions in­cluded pay­ments to vic­tims and reg­is­tered char­i­ties or, for ex­am­ple, re­la­tion­ship or be­havioural coun­selling. Di­ver­sion can be ap­plied more than once but there must be a fiveyear gap be­tween of­fend­ing and the of­fence com­mit­ted must be in a dif­fer­ent cat­e­gory. ‘‘This year 200 peo­ple have avoided a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion and it’s 200 cases that have not had to go to court, wast­ing time on of­fences that war­rant some sort of accountability but do not war­rant wast­ing the court’s time.’’ Many mi­nor of­fences were al­co­hol-re­lated or one-off in­ci­dents com­mit­ted by peo­ple with no con­vic­tions who should not have their copy­book blot­ted be­cause of an iso­lated drunken in­ci­dent, Mr Black­ford said. Na­tion­wide, Queen­stown was the third busiest sta­tion for di­ver­sions and in a decade 3000 peo­ple were pro­cessed. This year al­most 200 peo­ple were given di­ver­sion, paying $51,000 to char­i­ties and $23,000 to vic­tims so far.

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