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March 11, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Laying down the Law – The Sweet Escape

For many students, waking up to a sense of “What have I done?” quickly followed by “I’m never drinking again” is an all-too-familiar scenario. But aside from busting out some regrettable dance moves, sending compromising texts and eating way too much Burger King, most of us don’t commit any drunken sins that can’t be washed away with a big bottle of blue Powerade.

So what happens when you wake up with a throbbing headache, dry mouth and a shiny pair of handcuffs on your wrists? Before you write yourself off to a life of crime, let’s have a talk about the real-life equivalent of Monopoly’s ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card: diversion.

Diversion is a police scheme which allows offenders to avoid conviction in certain circumstances. At the discretion of the police, you may be offered diversion if you meet certain criteria, which include whether you have a criminal history, the interests of the victim, and the nature of the offence. Diversion is
generally considered suitable for first-time offenders (but may be offered more than once), and for minor offences such as liquor-ban breaches and Class-C-drug possession.

Unfortunately, diversion in New Zealand isn’t quite as sweet as the Monopoly Man’s deal. If you are offered diversion, you will have to accept full responsibility for the offence. This means that you will have to accept the police’s interpretation of the offence, even if you believe that you are innocent. Secondly, in return for dropping the charge(s) against you, you will be required to complete a number of conditions. These may include writing a letter of
apology, completing counselling or making a donation to charity, and must be completed before your charge is removed.

The important thing to remember is that, while diversion may one day save your ass, it is at the complete discretion of the police, and there’s not much you can do about it if they don’t offer it to you. In short, consider diversion a possible life-saver once you’ve already been arrested, but don’t rely on it as a guaranteed pass out if you’re thinking about getting loose this weekend.


Molly McCarthy

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