Minor criminal offending escapes conviction through granting diversion
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.