MIKE O’HANLON wants the teenager who gave him a black eye to be put to work, not put in a cell.
The Perth lord mayoral candidate had been at the Perth cultural centre last weekend with a friend when he was hit.
At the time Mr O’Hanlon had been trying to stop his friend from responding to a minor fracas.
He spoke to police, who gave him two options: let them intercept and lay charges, or let it go: “Running them through the criminal justice system isn’t going to make their lives better,” Mr O’Hanlon said.
“That only makes someone who has an anti-social bent to their personality even angrier.”
He decided against pressing charges but said that wasn’t a great option either, as the perpetrator may now think it’s ok to do this, which could lead to even worse violence or crime down the track.
Mr O’Hanlon would like to see an alternative that intercepts young offenders but—at their victim’s request—puts them to community work instead of being formally charged.
He says Perth city council has a bunch of volunteer programs already, such as tree plantings and litter removal (and he wants to get some composting programs going).
“I think it is plausible to get it off the ground,” he says. “I’ve spoken to different police officers, they mean well, the issue is they don’t have the resources, they have very limited options.
“They are about intercepting and funneling into processing. All they have is the criminal justice system.
“This presents them with another option. I don’t see that we’d be asking them to give anyone any special treatment, we’re talking about an agreement that exists [between the victim and offender].”
Criminal justice diversion programs have been used in other states and WA has a diversion program for people with mental illness. But most are administered by the courts rather than informally mediated between victim and offender.
An Australian law reform commission paper says this approach “avoids the stigma associated with prosecution and conviction and it avoids contaminating a first minor offender through contact with serious or recidivist offenders”.
by DAVID BELL