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What is diversion?

Diversion programs provide an alternative to prosecution. These programs are offered in courthouses throughout Ontario. Each courthouse has different diversion programs, with different eligibility requirements. Some diversion programs are very formal and structured, such as Mental Health Diversion or Extra Judicial Sanctions offered in Youth Court. Other types of diversion can be very informal and may simply involve doing a small amount of community service or making a donation to a charity.

Despite their differences, what all diversion programs have in common is that they are an alternative to prosecution. The Crown recognizes that not all types of offences need to be dealt with through guilty pleas or trials, and that sometimes helping out in the community can make up for harm caused by an offence.

Generally, diversion involves an accused person doing something outside of court in order to have a charge (or charges) stayed or withdrawn by the Crown.

For example, you could be offered diversion in a case such as:

  • You’ve been charged with “theft under” for taking something of low value from a store without paying for it. This is commonly known as shoplifting. If you don’t have a criminal record and you haven’t been in trouble with the police before, the Crown may offer you diversion by telling you that they will withdraw the charge if you do 20 hours of community service.