Court Diversion Programs

Court diversion programs in various forms have been a part of the justice system in Australia for several decades.  In their contemporary form, they involve a magistrates court adjourning a criminal case, commonly for a matter of months, while a defendant participates in rehabilitation programs, generally in the areas of alcohol and illicit drug abuse. Some programs allow participation in diversion prior or subsequent to determination of guilt, while others are only post conviction, pre-sentence programs. They are generally used for those with minimal prior contact with the justice system and for less serious offences.

Some other diversion style programs have emerged to assist other offenders with special needs, such as the intellectually disabled list at Central Law Courts in Perth and other programs addressing the needs of street workers and the homeless.

Therapeutic jurisprudence examines the impact of legal processes on participant wellbeing. However, the court processes used in relation to diversion programs are far more limited than those commonly used in problem-solving courts such as drug courts such as intensive judicial case management, the involvement of a multi-disciplinary court team and therapeutic judging techniques. In a diversion program, the only processes that a court may use is the adjournment of the case and the offer of a reduction in sentence for successful compliance. As to whether there is any significant engagement between the judicial officer and the defendant or the use of therapeutic judging techniques such as goal setting, problem-solving and encouragement depends on the individual judicial officer.


'Australian Capital Territory: Police and Court Drug Diversion Service’
New South Wales: Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment
Queensland Court Illicit Drug Diversion
South Australia: Magistrates Court Treatment Intervention Court
Victoria: Diversion Services
Western Australia Court Diversion Programs 
Northern Territory Youth Diversionary Program

Bartels L, Diversion Programs for Indigenous Women (Australian Institute of Criminology, 2010),

Colvin E, Conditional justice: therapeutic bail in Victoria. (Doctoral thesis, Monash University 2014)

James DV, 'Court Diversion in Perspective' (2006) 40 Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 529.

King MS, 'Challenges Facing Australian Court Drug Diversion Initiatives' Keynote Address, Court Drug Diversion Initiatives Conference, Brisbane, 25-26 May 2006.

Passey M, Bolitho J, Scantleton J and Flaherty B, 'The Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment (MERIT) Pilot Program: Court Outcomes and Recidivism' (2007) 40 Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology 199.

Ross S, Evaluation of the Court Integrated Services Program Final Report (The University of Melbourne, 2009) 21,

Spooner C, Hall W and Mattick R, 'An Overview of Diversion Strategies for Australian Drug-related Offenders' (2001) 20 Drug and Alcohol Review 281.

Tasmania's Court Mandated Drug Diversion Program (Success Works, 2008)

Tudor-Stack v Anderson [2004] NTMC 017 (a case that considered the Northern Territory's CREDIT program).

WA Diversion Program Evaluation Framework (POP/STIR/IDP) Final Report (Crime Research Centre, 2007).