The vast majority of young people never come into contact with police. When young people do, it presents a choice and an opportunity. Police choose whether to divert a young person away from court, and diversion presents an opportunity to help the young person address their offending. As I reported to Parliament in 2008, that can deliver significant benefits for them, the community and the taxpayer.
Sadly, almost 10 years later, those benefits are not being realised. Police are choosing to divert young people away from court less than half the time. When they are diverted, only a small proportion receive services that are likely to help them address their offending.
This is not an easy issue. Every individual decision about diverting a young person is complex and requires the police officer to balance many factors. The needs of the young people often cross agency boundaries but, despite goodwill at local levels, agencies often struggle to step beyond their core functions to work together effectively.
My report makes clear that there are missed opportunities to divert young people away from court, and for agencies to provide meaningful pathways for those who are diverted. I urge agencies to work together to take those opportunities, and realise the benefits both for the community, and for each of the young people involved.