When a person is facing criminal charges in the Local Court, and these charges are due somewhat to a drugs/crime cycle, the defendant may be eligible for entry into the Magistrates’ Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program.
The adult offender must have a drug problem, and be willing to participate in a program, and be suitable to be released on bail. At the offender’s Court appearance, his legal representative, or the Magistrate suggest that the offender speak to a MERIT caseworker who will undertake a preliminary eligibility assessment.
There are shortfalls in the program, in that the offender must be an adult and acknowledge that they have a problem with drugs, leaving the youth and those with alcohol problems with significantly less opportunities for rehabilitation.
Although there obviously are programs available through various health services, it is worthwhile remembering the mental state of some of these offenders.
When two accused attend court, one stole to fund a drug habit, and one stole to fund an alcohol habit, there is a possibility that they will both be granted conditional bail, if the matters aren’t finalised. The person with the drug problem can be interviewed, assessed and be allocated a case manager for guidance and help through a structured treatment program. On the other hand, the alcoholic is granted bail, handed a blue slip of paper which he possibly can’t read anyway, and expected to abide by bail conditions that they didn’t hear or understand, until he appears at his next Court date that he didn’t hear either!
It is a great program that should be made available to adults and children, with both drug and alcohol problems.
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This is intended for general information and does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal legal advice should be sought.