Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT)
The Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program is designed for offenders with drug problems who are eligible for bail and who may benefit from treatment and rehabilitation. MERIT aims to reduce drug-related crime by assisting eligible offenders to address drug problems that may be contributing to criminal behaviour.
MERIT is voluntary and provides the offender with an opportunity to engage in treatment prior to their hearing. The offender's progress in treatment may be considered during the final hearing and sentence.
MERIT accepts referrals for assessment from multiple sources, including police. Formal endorsement of participation in MERIT sits with magistrates.
Offenders deemed appropriate for MERIT can generally commence treatment soon after referral.
Participants are closely case-managed throughout their bail period by trained health professionals. The magistrate receives regular reports on their progress until the court case is finalised at the end of the court bail period, which is usually three months. If the defendant fails to attend treatment, commits further offences, or does not comply with bail conditions, the magistrate is notified.
Offenders charged with strictly indictable drug offences or sexual assault offences are not eligible for MERIT.