Diversion programmes for children in conflict with the law | Western Cape Government

Diversion programmes for children in conflict with the law

What is diversion?
Diversion refers to diverting an accused child away from formal court procedures and towards a more constructive and positive solution. Diversion is based on the principles of restorative justice, which requires that offenders accept responsibility for the crime committed, make amends for their misdeeds and initiating a healing process for themselves, their families, the victims and the community. In essence, the aim of diversion is to give a child offender a second chance by preventing him/her from having a criminal record and to address the root causes of the criminal behaviour through an appropriate diversion programme or intervention. 
Diversions for children may be offered either with or without conditions and may be considered in all cases, irrespective of the nature of the offence and whether or not previous diversions have been ordered.
Why is diversion a better option for children?
There is the concern that children who enter the official criminal justice system will be disadvantaged for the rest of their lives and are more likely to resort to criminal activities in the future. By intervening at an early stage with self-development skills training, this trajectory can be avoided. 
How does the diversion process work? 
A probation officer must assess a child who has been arrested and, if the child is a suitable candidate for diversion, make this recommendation at a preliminary inquiry. If the child is given a diversion order, they are responsible for making sure that the child adheres to it. If a child fails to comply with any condition of THE diversion order, the probation officer must notify the court, and a warrant of arrest for the child may be issued.
Who is a candidate for diversion?
Any child between the age of 12 and 13 years, with proven criminal capacity, and 14 to 18 years. 
Above children must voluntarily admit to the crime before being considered for diversion.
There must be a prima facie (clear) case against the child
The child and his parent/ guardian consent to diversion 
What are the objectives of diversion?
The objectives of diversion, as set out in Section 51 of the Child Justice Act are to—
(a) deal with a child outside the formal criminal justice system in appropriate cases;
(b) encourage the child to be accountable for the harm caused by him or her;
(c) meet the particular needs of the individual child;
(d) promote the reintegration of the child into his or her family and community;
(e) provide an opportunity to those affected by the harm to express their views on its impact on them;
(f)  encourage the rendering to the victim of some symbolic benefit or the delivery of some object as compensation for the harm;
(g) promote reconciliation between the child and the person or community affected by the harm caused by the child;
(h) prevent stigmatising the child and prevent the adverse consequences flowing from being subject to the criminal justice system;
(i) reduce the potential for re-offending;
(j) prevent the child from having a criminal record; and
(k) promote the dignity and well-being of the child, and the development of his or her sense of self-worth and ability to contribute to society.
What are the different types of diversion?
Sect 53 in the Child Justice Act set out in two levels of diversion options:
(a) level one applying to less serious offences, as per Schedule 1 in the Act and
(b) level two applying to more serious offences, as per Schedules 2 and 3 in the Act.
What kinds of diversion programmes are there?
The Child Justice Act mandates the Department of Social Development, to provide accredited diversion programmes for children in conflict with the law.
A wide range of accredited diversion programmes for children in conflict with the law are provided by the Department of Social Development and non-governmental/non-profit organisations.
The Department of Social Development offers the following accredited diversion programmes:
Children between the age of 10 – 12 years
Children between the age of 13 – 18 years
5. Reverse Your Thinking: Restorative Justice Programme
6. Home-based Supervision Monitoring Programme
7. Saystop: Sexual Offender Programme

Contact the regional office nearest to you to find out more about diversion services and programmes that are available in your area and how you can access them.


The content on this page was last updated on 28 June 2023