MERIT program helps man turn his life around

A MAN who has used the MERIT (Magistrate's Early Referral Into Treatment) program to turn his life around says being part of the program opened his eyes and put him back on track.

James Anthony Fry, 67, of Tremain Avenue, Bathurst, appeared before magistrate Michael Allen on Monday, and was asked by Mr Allen about his progress in the program.

Fry had been charged with mid-range PCA after being pulled over by police on April 1 in Hereford Street.

He was the sole occupant of the vehicle when he was stopped for a random breath test.

When police asked if he had been drinking, he said to them: “Yer [sic], I had one about 15 minutes to half an hour ago.”

He recorded a positive result, was arrested and taken to Bathurst Police Station. There, after a 15 minute observation period, a breath analysis recorded 0.080.

Fry told officers he had drunk two stubbies of Tooheys New. He said his first drink was about 10am and his last at 1.15pm, and he had not eaten during that time.

But Fry said he had since learned about how not drinking alcohol helped him, and had not had a drink for 10 weeks.

He also told Mr Allen that he had begun a four-year apprenticeship course through his employer and it was his goal to complete the trade.

He told the court there was no way he was going to let anything stand in his way.

Mr Allen said it was an exciting development for Fry and he had used the assistance received from the MERIT program to confront issues which had been in his life for many years.

Mr Allen, who described himself as far from a wowser, said the community, for whatever reason, believed “the consumption of alcohol makes them more attractive, better sportspeople, taller or whatever”.

“All of this is, of course, not true,” he said, adding alcohol is a legal but serious drug, widely consumed across all socio-economic groups.

Mr Allen said anyone who sat in the rear of his courtroom would see the misery alcohol brings to people with an addiction, and the families of these people who are lost in alcoholism.

He said Fry should be commended for the strong decisions he had made with the assistance of MERIT.

He said they were strong, positive changes, and he trusted Fry would take the lessons he had learnt and the steps he had taken into the future.

Mr Allen convicted Fry, reduced the fine to $400, and disqualified him from driving for six months, with section 225a of the Roads and Transport Act to apply.

Mr Allen said in the absence of attending MERIT and the positive changes Fry had made, he would have disqualified him for 12 months.