Local Court New South Wales

Diversion programs

In some circumstances, people facing criminal charges in court may be referred to a rehabilitation, treatment or intervention program that is intended to address underlying problems, such as:

  • drug or alcohol dependency
  • mental illness
  • homelessness
  • extreme poverty

The magistrate or judicial officer will adjourn the case while a defendant participates in the diversion program.

Other court programs provide an alternative forum for hearing a case or negotiating an outcome.

Courts with integrated treatment programs

Drug Court

This specialist court offers special programs to reduce reoffending by adults who are dependent on drugs.

Visit the Drug Court website for more information.

Local Court diversion programs

A number of treatment and intervention referral programs are offered at the local court. This is a summary of the diversion programs in the local court.

Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT)

The MERIT program is available in the local court to give adult defendants with drug or alcohol problems the opportunity to undertake a voluntary rehabilitation program as part of the bail process.

People can nominate themselves or be identified by the magistrate, solicitor or police as suitable for assessment for the MERIT program.

Visit the MERIT website for more information.

Justice Advocacy Service (JAS) 

The Justice Advocacy Service (JAS) supports adults and young people with a cognitive impairment who are in contact with the criminal justice system as victims, witnesses, or suspects/ defendants to exercise their rights and fully participate in criminal justice processes. JAS is delivered by the Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS) and is available across NSW including rural, regional, and remote locations. JAS advocates for clients by providing a support person and advocating for reasonable adjustments.

JAS also operates a court-based diversion service at six local courts in NSW (Downing Centre, Parramatta, Blacktown, Penrith, Gosford, and Lismore local courts). JAS Diversion supports eligible defendants with a cognitive impairment to seek a diversion order under section 14 of the Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment (Forensic Provisions) Act 2020.

Find out more about JAS

Traffic Offender Intervention Program (TOIP)

This program, offered by the NSW Department of Roads and Maritime Services, targets offenders who have pleaded guilty or been found guilty of traffic offences in the local court.

The Traffic Offender Intervention Program is a community-based, road safety education program. It provides offenders with the information and skills necessary to develop positive attitudes towards driving and become safer drivers.

Find out more about TOIPs

Domestic Violence Court Intervention Model (DVCIM)

The DVCIM program operates at Wagga Wagga and Campbelltown Local Court and is an integrated criminal justice and community social welfare response to domestic violence. Where the matter is appropriate for prosecution, DVCIM provide witness preparation and ensures victim safety and support is addressed.

For more information see the booklet Your court, your safety: a guide to going to court to get help with domestic violence (PDF, 322.7 KB).

Circle Sentencing

Circle Sentencing is an alternative sentencing court for adult aboriginal offenders. It directly involves local aboriginal people in the process of sentencing offenders, with the aims of making it more meaningful and improving confidence in the criminal justice system.

Find more information about Circle Sentencing on the Judicial Commission website.


Court Liaison Service: 02 9700 2175.

Last updated:

28 Jun 2024

Was this content useful?
We will use your rating to help improve the site.
Please don't include personal or financial information here
Please don't include personal or financial information here
Top Return to top of page Top