The NSW government has included alcoholics in its magistrates early referral into treatment (MERIT) program in the hope that it will cut down offences by defendants who are alcohol-dependent.
By year's end, nine courts will cover alcoholics in the expanded MERIT, which has successfully treated non-violent drug defendants before their sentencing and reduced crime rate since the program was introduced 10 years ago.
''We hope to replicate this success in treating defendants with serious alcohol dependency, said Attorney-General John Hatzistergos on Monday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. 'By addressing the defendant's alcohol problem, the program may also address what is often the primary reason behind their offending behaviour.''
The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found that drug offenders who joined the MERIT for three months before sentencing were less likely to commit a new offence later Those who completed the program had higher percentage of not committing any crime.
The MERIT program also improved the physical and mental health of participants, according to Hatzistergos.