Diversion is when you are offered a chance to do something like community service or counselling to have your charge withdrawn (which means it will be dropped permanently) or stayed (put on hold for up to a year).

Sometimes, the Crown can see that a case does not need to be dealt with through guilty pleas or trials. Sometimes, helping out in the community can make up for the harm caused by an offence.

What can you do for diversion?

It may be anything including:

  • community service
  • a charitable donation
  • anger management counselling
  • addiction or mental health counselling
  • a letter of apology
  • a combination of what’s listed above

How do I get diversion?

Diversion is usually offered by the Crown at your first court appearance. Either check the door of the courtroom to see if you are on the list of people approved for diversion and follow the instructions at the top of that paper.

If there’s no list, go into the courtroom and wait for your name to be called to find out if you are being offered diversion. You will find this in your disclosure, which is a collection of information that the police and Crown have on your case.

There will usually be a screening form, which tells you whether or not the Crown will ask for a jail sentence if you plead guilty or if you’re found guilty after a trial. It may tell you that the Crown is recommending a peace bond or diversion—which means there might not even be a sentence or the need for a guilty plea.

The Crown may offer you diversion based on:

  • your criminal record
  • how serious your charge is
  • the cost of prosecuting you compared to the seriousness of your offence

If you have been offered diversion, go to the diversion office in the courthouse and meet with a diversion court worker to find out how much time you need to complete either community service or counselling or a combination of the two.

For example, if you have been asked to do 40 hours of community service, then your next court date will be scheduled after that is done.

If your name isn’t on the list of people approved for diversion, ask for your disclosure from the Crown.

If you have not been offered diversion, you can schedule a Crown pre‑trial, where you or your lawyer can try to convince the Crown to offer you diversion.

Return to the courtroom and tell the court when the diversion worker said you should have your next court date.

Proving you’ve completed diversion

Direct accountability programs

Some courthouses have a direct accountability program, which usually have a community justice worker who will help set up counselling or find you a place to complete community service. They will also confirm with the Crown once you’ve completed what you are supposed to do.

Arranging your community service or counselling on your own

If the courthouse doesn’t have a direct accountability program, you will have to arrange everything on your own. It would be a good idea to tell the diversion court worker about which counselling or community service program you’re thinking of doing.

If you’re doing counselling or a course, you may have to pay for this. If you’re making a charitable donation, you will have to get a non‑taxable receipt to prove you made a donation to a non‑profit organization.

What happens with your case?

If you agree to diversion, your case will be postponed for as long as you need to complete the community service or counselling. You will be given a date for when you have to go back to court to prove that you have completed this work.

Once this is done, the Crown will either stay or withdraw your charges.

If your charges are withdrawn, this means that you won’t have a criminal record (if you didn’t have one before) and the Crown cannot continue a criminal case against you for this same charge. It will mean you are done with court where this charge is concerned.

If your charges are stayed, that means the Crown won’t prosecute your case for now. This doesn’t mean they won’t change their mind and continue a court case against you later.

NOTE: If the Crown feels you’re taking too long to complete your community service or counselling, they can take away the diversion offer.

You can also change your mind at any time about accepting diversion and set a trial date instead.