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MERIT is a program available in most Local Courts in New South Wales that provides the opportunity for adult defendants with substance abuse 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 MERIT to receive targeted drug or alcohol 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.
Defendants are closely case-managed by the MERIT team throughout the Program and the Magistrate receives regular reports on the participant. The final hearing and sentence generally coincide with the completion of the MERIT Program. Magistrates are then able to consider the defendant's progress in treatment as part of final sentencing.
*At selected courts, the MERIT Program is available to defendants with a primary alcohol issue (whereas at the majority of courts, entry is restricted to those whose primary concern is illicit drugs).
Visit the Coverage Statewide page for the full list of MERIT courts. Those marked with a "#" offer MERIT to defendants with drug and/or alcohol issues.