A diversionary disposal is an alternative to a prosecution and diverts an accused person away from the formal court process. They are designed to be a proportionate response to low level crime. In summary, the purpose of PPS diversionary disposals is:
- To deal with less serious offences and the offender quickly and simply;
- To reduce the risk of re-offending;
- To engage the offender in a restorative process with the victim and community;
- To reduce to a minimum the offender’s involvement with the criminal justice system;
- To enable victims to express their views; and
- To enable early intervention in respect of young offenders.
Types of Diversion
The types of diversion currently available to the PPS include the following:
This is a formal reprimand by police and although not a conviction, in the case of an adult, it is recorded on a person’s criminal record for a period of six years. Cautions for youth offenders are referred to as “restorative cautions” and can provide an opportunity for the offender to meet the victim and affected members of the community. Restorative cautions are recorded on the young person’s criminal record for a period of two years.
This is a formal reprimand by police, and although not a conviction, will be recorded on a person’s criminal record for a period of one year.
Diversionary youth conference
This is a restorative conference which seeks to encourage young people to recognise the effects of their crime and to take responsibility for their actions by actively engaging with the victim, offender and community. Although not a conviction, this disposal is recorded on a youth’s criminal record for a period of two years.
Community based restorative justice
This is a restorative scheme tailored to the circumstances of the offence and offender that is provided by a government accredited community-based provider. A reference to such a scheme can only be made with the consent of both the offender and, where there is one, the victim. Such a disposal will be recorded on the individual’s criminal record for a period of two years in the case of a young person, and six years in the case of an adult.
National Driver Alertness Course
An invitation to attend this scheme can be directed as an alternative to a prosecution for careless or inconsiderate driving, provided that the driving in question did not result in serious injury or death and no other offences were committed at the same time. Completion of the course avoids payment of a fine and the endorsement of penalty points on a driving licence.
Immediate Telephone Caution Scheme
This scheme applies to both adults and youths and allows for decisions in relation to cautions, informed warnings and attendance at the National Driver Alertness Course to be issued, in certain circumstances, following a consultation by telephone between the prosecutor and police.
In some cases police can decide that the offending is suitable to be dealt with by way of a police disposal, without the submission of a file to the PPS. The types of disposal available to police include penalty notices for disorder, fixed penalty notices, the National Speed Awareness Course, and community resolution notices. These are recorded on the police computer systems and details of previous police disposals are provided to PPS if the same individual is reported for a subsequent offence.
Full details of the different disposals available to both the PPS and police are set out in the PPS Guidelines for the Use of Diversionary Disposals.
PPS approach to diversions
A diversion can only be directed by a prosecutor if they have concluded that the available evidence provides a reasonable prospect of conviction, i.e. that the Evidential Test for Prosecution is met.
Once a prosecutor is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction, the next consideration is whether the public interest requires prosecution through the courts. In circumstances where a court-based outcome is not required in the public interest, prosecutors will consider the appropriateness of proceeding by way of a diversionary disposal, particularly where the defendant is a young person.
In deciding whether a prosecution is required in the public interest, prosecutors will take into account the views expressed by the victim, where these are available. However, the decision whether to offer a diversionary disposal remains one for the prosecutor having formed an overall view of the public interest.
The decision whether to divert an offender is taken having regard to the particular facts and circumstances of the individual case. A diversionary disposal will never be directed for the most serious offences, and only in exceptional circumstances where the offence is so serious that it can only be prosecuted in the Crown Court. A list of the types of factors that will be considered in favour of, or against diversion, is contained within Chapter 2 of the Guidelines for the Use of Diversionary Disposals.
These include matters that go to the culpability of the offender and the seriousness of any harm that they have caused, as well as any relevant offending history.
In order to direct a diversion, except for the National Driver Alertness Course (where admission of guilt is not a prerequisite for entry onto the course), the general principle is that the offender must admit the offence. The admission must be clear and reliable for the restorative process to be effective.
In exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate to direct a diversionary disposal where the offender has made limited or partial admissions and where there are cogent public interest considerations in favour of diversion. In certain types of situations, such as where an offender was not interviewed about the offence, it may be appropriate to direct diversion subject to an admission being subsequently made.