How diversion gave a young boy a second chance

How diversion gave a young boy a second chance

Young people experiencing real trauma are sometimes susceptible to breaking the law. Given the right support they can grow out of offending and turn their life around.

Diversion programs give first-time or low-level offenders the chance to avoid a criminal conviction through activities that force them to understand the reasons they offend.

A diversion program helped Vince* realise that he was on the wrong track and commit to turning his life around.

Vince’s story

Vince was only 13 years old when he shoplifted and was caught with graffiti cans.

The story that led to this is traumatic, and unfortunately not unusual for a young person who gets into trouble with the law.

Vince was living with both of his parents, but wound up in foster care for two years. His father had been physically abusing him and he was angry with his mother who kept quiet on the abuse.

The allegations of violence were so serious that the Department of Human Services had become involved. 

It was during his time in foster care that Vince broke the law.

How we helped Vince

We first met Vince when he was still feeling really angry with the world. He had a bit of an attitude too.

It took a lot of encouragement from his legal aid lawyer to help Vince see that he needed to help himself to make some positive changes.

Vince fronted the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court of Victoria on four matters some three months after being charged. His earlier bravado had worn off and he was feeling scared and apprehensive.

Thankfully, he was looked on favourably at court. He had no prior convictions, and the police were persuaded by our lawyer’s account of the compelling personal circumstances that led to Vince breaking the law.

The police informants decided to give Vince another chance and recommended that he undertake a diversion program for young people known as ROPES.

Unfortunately young people living in regional Victoria don’t have the same access to diversionary or rehabilitation programs like ROPES and Right Step as young people in Melbourne.

If Vince had lived in regional Victoria he most likely would have been given a good behaviour bond, which is effectively a criminal record. This could have negatively impacted his future prospects, such as finding work.

The success result

Vince was determined to put all this behind him and start afresh. He was grateful to be given a second chance.

Committed to turning his life around, he successfully completed the ROPES program and the court discharged all matters against him. He was relieved to leave court without a criminal record.

Vince’s lawyer was really happy about the support shown toward her client, especially because ROPES is not usually an option when the young person is before the court on more than two matters.

His lawyer says that Vince is now living back with his mother and brother, has not committed an offence since, and is enrolled in a new school.

How we can help you

If you're a young person facing criminal charges, find out more about diversion programs and how you can get help.

Also read more about legal rights and responsibilities for young people.

* not his real name