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Queensland magistrates early referral into treatment program

Queensland Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (QMERIT) is a pilot drug diversion program in the magistrates courts at Maroochydore and Redcliffe, which started in 2006. It is for people who can get bail and are charged with summary (minor) offences in those courts. You must have an illicit drug use problem and meet the criteria for referral. Drug treatment takes place while you are on bail and before you are dealt with for your charges.

How can I get help from the program?

Talk to a lawyer about how you can get referred to the program as part of your bail. You need to try and get onto the program in a very early stage of your court case. You could also talk to a QMERIT Court Liaison and Case Management Service staff member. See the contact details at the bottom of this page.

It is up to the magistrate whether to refer you to the program.

To be eligible, you must be:

  • aged 18 or over
  • have an obvious and treatable drug problem (this does not include alcohol as your main drug problem) but alcohol can be another problem you have
  • your charge(s) relate to problems caused by your illicit drug use
  • your charge(s) can be dealt with summarily (in the magistrates court)
  • you are not charged with sexual or violent offences or have a criminal record for them (minor assault charges might not stop you getting on the program)
  • you must be eligible and suitable for bail
  • you must agree to be in the program
  • you must live where you can take part in the program (in the general Maroochydore or Redcliffe areas)
  • the magistrate must agree to refer you.

You do not have to intend to plead guilty and to agree to take part in the program is not admitting that you are guilty. Your criminal charges will be kept on hold until after you finish the program.

You won't be stopped from entering the QMERIT program just because you have unsuccessfully tried other types of rehabilitation in the past.

What will the therapy/treatment be like?

The treatment lasts between 12 and 16 weeks. A team of professional people from different government or non-government organisations assess your issues and needs. They come up with an assessment for the court. This is all to help you deal with your drug problem. You get a treatment plan that is right for you. There are a range of treatment options including:

  • case management
  • detox
  • methadone and buprenorphine
  • residential rehabilitation
  • individual counseling
  • day treatment.

Once the initial assessment is done, the magistrate will make your involvement in the program part of your bail conditions, then you start your individual treatment plan. The court will regularly review how you were going on the treatment program (each six weeks), but you are supervised weekly by members of the QMERIT team.

You have to abide by all the conditions on your bail just like normal, but you will have the support of your QMERIT caseworker.

What happens if I finish the program?

Normally you would finish your program before your final court hearing (trial) or sentence. The court is given a report showing your achievements and you graduate from the program. The magistrate can take your success into account when you get sentenced for the charges.

What happens if I don't finish the program?

If you don't comply with the conditions of the QMERIT program, your caseworker will decide what to tell the court in their report. The magistrate will be told if you:

  • did not go to appointments or attend programs
  • did not go to court reviews
  • committed further offences
  • breached your bail conditions;
  • are thought to be a risk to yourself or the community.

Further information

For further information contact:

  • QMERIT Maroochydore (07) 5376 5141
  • QMERIT Redcliffe (07) 3480 4600

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you

  • have been charged with an offence
  • meet the requirements set out above, and want to talk about being referred to the QMERIT program
  • are participating in the QMERIT program and have not finished or complied with the conditions of the program.

Get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice about the QMERIT program.

The following organisations may also be able to give legal advice on your matter.

Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to see if they can help with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to assist with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.

Queensland Health have information about the QMERIT program and additional alcohol, tobacco and other drug treatment programs and services available in Queensland.

Queensland Courts has contact details for the QMERIT and other Courts Innovation Programs.

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