What is Diversion in our Criminal Justice System?

Diversion refers to a program to remove people from the formal criminal justice stream and allow them to deal with their charges in a less formal fashion.  For adults, this is often referred to as Direct Accountability whereas for youth under the age of 18 it is known as Extra Judicial Sanctions (EJS).

Diversion programs are generally only offered to first-time offenders charged with relatively minor charges. It is particularly common in shoplifting cases or possession of small amounts of marijuana though can be offered more broadly where appropriate and is much more actively used in young persons under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.  The lawyers of BSB always lobby the crown attorney to consider a form of diversion where appropriate. If offered, the client will be asked to accept responsibility in an informal setting outside of court.  There will be no guilty plea, no criminal conviction, and no formal criminal record (though the court does maintain a record of the fact that a person received diversion and it is very uncommon to be offered this break a second time).

Clients will be asked to take certain actions before the diversion is finalized.  These can include restitution for any damage caused or items stolen or the preparation of a letter of apology.  It is also very common for clients to be asked to make a charitable donation and/or complete some community service hours.

Once the preconditions for the specific diversion are completed, the criminal charges are withdrawn and the court case is completed.

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