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Magistrates' Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program



Magistrates' Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) is a program available in most local courts in New South Wales (NSW) that provides the opportunity for adult defendants with substance use problems to work, on a voluntary basis, towards rehabilitation as part of the bail process.

Defendants can be identified by the Magistrate, solicitor, police or the defendants themselves as suitable for assessment for the MERIT program. MERIT teams, based in NSW Health or non-Government organisations, then conduct an assessment after which the defendant may be accepted into the program to receive targeted alcohol or other drug treatment. A MERIT treatment plan is developed to match the defendant's individual needs. The court may make the defendant's involvement in MERIT a condition of bail.

On 1 July 2009, the Rural Alcohol Diversion Program formally merged with MERIT, allowing MERIT to be available to defendants at select courts whether their primary substance of concern is alcohol or an illicit drug.

Abstract adapted from Department of Attorney General and Justice, New South Wales


MERIT Policy Coordination
Crime Prevention Division
Department of Justice and Attorney General
Level 5, 160 Marsden Street
Parramatta NSW 2150
Ph: (02) 8688 7625
Fax: (02) 8688 9627

Related publications

Martire K A, Larney S (2009)

Aboriginal participation in MERIT.

Sydney: Crime Prevention Division, NSW Attorney General’s Department

Larney S, Martire KA (2010)

Factors affecting criminal recidivism among participants in the Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program in New South Wales, Australia.

Drug and Alcohol Review; 29(6): 684-688

Spratley S, Donnelly N, Trimboli L (2013)

Health and wellbeing outcomes for defendants entering the Alcohol-MERIT program.

Sydney: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

Public Accounts Committee (2010)

Helping Aboriginal defendants through MERIT.

In: Seventh report on the examination of the Auditor-General's performance audits. Sydney: Legislative Assembly, NSW: 16-22

Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (2010)

Improving Aboriginal participation in the MERIT program.

North Sydney, NSW: New South Wales Department of Health

Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Office (2007)

MERIT residential treatment guidelines.

Sydney: NSW Health

These guidelines outline and clarify the role of service providers in the Magistrates' Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program at each stage of the program (from referral to exit) with regard to residential treatment and services. The guidelines:

Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet abstract

Passey M, Flaherty B, Didcott P (2006)

The Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment (MERIT) pilot program: a descriptive analysis of a court diversion program in rural Australia.

Journal of Psychoactive Drugs; 38(4): 521-529

NSW Health (2007)

The Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program: health outcomes.

Sydney: NSW Health

Martire KA, Larney S (2009)

Women and the MERIT program.

Sydney: Crime Prevention Division, NSW Attorney General’s Department


Last updated: 20 October 2017
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