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The Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program is a voluntary, pre-plea program for adults in the Local Court who have issues related to their alcohol and other drug use. MERIT provides access to a wide range of alcohol and other drug treatment services for 12 weeks while court matters are adjourned. MERIT has operated since 2000 and is currently available at 62 of the 137 Local Courts in NSW.
MERIT aims to improve the health and well-being and reduce offending for adults who have issues related to their alcohol and other drug use and are in contact with the criminal justice system.
MERIT has been shown to have positive outcomes for participants. Some of the benefits may be:
The Magistrate approves participation and decides on eligibility. A person is eligible for MERIT if they are:
A person must also be suitable for MERIT. The MERIT team determines suitability which includes that the person:
A Magistrate, solicitor or Police Officer can refer a person to MERIT. A person can also refer themselves. They are able to call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service on: 1800 250 015 to be referred to a local MERIT team. A list of all the courts where MERIT is available is found here List of Local Courts.
The MERIT team will work with the participant to provide the best treatment and support. This may include:
A participant can voluntarily withdraw from the program at any time. If a participant does not complete the program, the court case continues in the usual way. A participant is not penalised for leaving MERIT.
A MERIT participant’s conditions, while on the program, include:
The court may be informed if a participant does not follow the MERIT program conditions. The Magistrate may remove a participant from the program. If removed from MERIT, the participant’s court case continues in the usual way.
When a participant completes the MERIT program, the Magistrate will hear the participant’s original hearing or sentencing matter(s).
The Magistrate will be provided with a report from the MERIT team which includes information about their treatment and any recommendations for future treatment.
If a participant does not complete the MERIT program there is no punitive action from the court. This means that if a participant is convicted of the offence(s) they were charged with, any penalty will relate to that offence only.
For more details on how MERIT can help you please refer to the MERIT Leaflet (PDF , 50.6 KB)
To be referred to a MERIT team in your area call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.
08 May 2023
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