The Magistrate Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) is a program that treats adult offenders who have an admitted illicit drug problem, with the view of reducing drug related crime. This is a voluntarily program.

Magistrates have the discretion to considers your compliance with the treatment program, and individuals who complete MERIT are often considered to be more eligible for probation style sentences due to previous compliance.

The program takes a minimum of 12 weeks through 4 stages, and includes home visits, urinalysis, treatment programs and days to attend as part of the program.


Who is Eligible for MERIT?

MERIT Program

Eligibility is based on several factors including: –

  • An adult
  • Eligible for bail or not require bail to be considered
  • Voluntarily agree to participate
  • Demonstrable and treatable drug problem (alcoholism can be a secondary or associated program)
  • Charged with a drug related offence
  • Not be charged or have outstanding strictly indictable matters (including drug) offences
  • Not be charged or have outstanding any offences of sexual assault or serious violence and
  • Provide written and informed consent


What is involved in the assessment for MERIT?

  1. Treatable drug problem
  2. Motivated to undertake treatment
  3. Develop an individual treatment plan

The magistrate receives a report as to eligibility from MERIT and then decides whether the defendant is to be accepted into the program.


Treatment available on the MERIT Program

  • Detoxification
  • Pharmacotherapies (methadone, naltrexone etc)
  • Urinalysis
  • Residential rehabilitation
  • Community outpatient services and
  • Case management.


For more information on the MERIT Program please see these available Links:

Communities & Justice

NSW Health – MERIT

Odyssey House

Indigenous Justice РClearinghouse 

Drug and Alcohol Health Services (Upper Hunter & Newcastle)


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