'We cannot fine our way out of the pandemic': a call to address unjust COVID-19 fines
Over 100 prominent members of the legal, academic and political profession have endorsed an open letter addressed to the NSW Premier, calling on the NSW Government to revoke wrongly issued COVID-19 fines.
Add your name to the Open Letter: bit.ly/covid-fines-letter
Written by Aboriginal Legal Service ACT/NSW (ALS), Redfern Legal Centre, Community Legal Centres NSW and Public Interest Advocacy Service, the open letter calls for greater investment in community education and engagement strategies, and enhanced social and economic measures to support communities already in crisis.
The letter is a response to concerns among the legal fraternity that COVID-19 fines have been incorrectly issued by police to people undertaking lawful recreation, and that these significant monetary penalties are having a disproportionate impact on communities experiencing vulnerability.
Read the open letter below (signatures updated 23 September 2021)
The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian MP, Premier of NSW
Via online form: https://www.nsw.gov.au/premier-of-nsw/contact-premier
cc The Hon. Victor Michael Dominello MP, Minister for Customer Service
cc The Hon. David Elliot MP, Minister for Police
15 September 2021
A call to address unjust COVID-19 fines
The organisations and individuals that have signed this open letter are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 fines on vulnerable people and communities in NSW.
We call on the Government to reduce the use of policing and fines to ensure compliance with public health orders and invest more heavily in non-punitive approaches.
Many communities in NSW are facing dire financial consequences as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. While fines are a common mechanism for enforcing the law, we are very concerned by the emphasis that has been placed on them as a means for securing compliance with public health orders. These new public health orders have been introduced and amended at a rapid pace. Their legal elements are complex and difficult to understand. This has inevitably resulted in confusion among some members of the public about their rights and responsibilities, with a disproportionate impact on vulnerable community groups.
People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who lack access to accurately translated and culturally appropriate health advice also risk being further disadvantaged.
The excessive use of fines against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities in NSW also has the potential to further entrench disadvantage and exacerbate negative relationships between Aboriginal communities and the police.
We urge the Government to reduce reliance on policing and fines as a predominant strategy for achieving compliance with COVID-19 public health orders.
We instead encourage greater investment in community education and engagement strategies, and enhanced social and economic measures to support communities already in crisis. This will engender greater trust in contract tracers and authorities enforcing public health advice.
We call on the Government to reduce the monetary amounts of COVID-19 fines.
The cost of COVID-19 fines are significant, especially compared to other fines. People experiencing disadvantage already suffering from the economic impact of COVID-19 risk being plunged further into debt. The appeals and financial hardship review processes relating to fines are insufficient to address these concerns – they require an understanding of complex and changing legal rules, knowledge of the right to seek review, prompt action within tight timeframes and language and advocacy skills, which many people just don’t have.
We call on the Government to review and revoke all fines erroneously imposed for lawful outdoor recreation.
We are concerned that many people have been incorrectly issued a $1,000 or $3,000 fine by NSW Police for undertaking lawful outdoor recreation activities including sitting in a park by themselves, or with one other person or household members, eating in an outdoor public space by themselves, or with one other person or household members, and sitting alone in a car.
The Public Health (COVID-19 Additional Restrictions for Delta Outbreak) Order allows for a person (excluding areas of concern) to leave their place of residence to undertake ‘exercise or outdoor recreation’ with one other person or members of the same household within a 5km radius or within their local government area. Up until the 12 August 2021, it also allowed those in areas of concern to undertake recreation within 5km of their place of residence. The NSW Government website states: ‘Recreation includes outdoor leisure activities such as sitting for relaxation, or to eat, drink or read outdoors.’
We cannot fine our way out of the pandemic.
We need alternatives to the widespread use of fines to ensure compliance with the public health orders. This includes better social and economic support for struggling communities, more investment in community engagement and education and the distribution of culturally appropriate materials and messages. Such an approach will be more effective in building support for important public health measures that seek to protect our community.
1. Nadine Miles, A/Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd
2. Joanna Shulman, Chief Executive Officer, Redfern Legal Centre
3. Tim Leach, Executive Director, Community Legal Centres NSW
4. Jonathon Hunyor, Chief Executive Officer, Public Interest Advocacy Centre
5. Stephen Norrish QC
6. Usman Naveed, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT)
7. Mark Patrick, Principal Solicitor, Australian Centre for Disability Law
8. Felicity Graham, Barrister, Black Chambers 9. Brinda Thanakrishnan, Team Manager, CBA 10. Arlia Fleming, Centre Director, Central Tablelands and Blue Mountains Community Legal Centre 11. Luke McNamara, Professor and Co-Director, Centre for Crime, Law and Justice, UNSW Sydney 12. Dr Annie Cossins, Honorary Professor, Centre for Crime, Law and Justice, UNSW Sydney 13.George (Kev) Dertadian, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Centre for Crime, Law and Justice, UNSW Sydney 14. Jason Moore, PhD Candidate, Centre for Crime, Law and Justice, UNSW Sydney 15. Mehera San Roque, Associate Professor, Centre for Crime, Law and Justice, UNSW Sydney 16. Vicki Sentas, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Crime, Law and Justice, UNSW Sydney 17. Tamar Hopkins, PhD Student, Centre for Crime Law and Justice, UNSW Sydney 18. Kate Bonser, Graduate Lawyer, Chalk & Behrendt Lawyers and Consultants 19. Ingrid Rikkert, Regional Accreditation Coordinator, CLCNSW 20. Jill Hunter, Professor, Faculty of Law & Justice, UNSW Sydney 21. Julie Stubbs, Honorary Professor, Faculty of Law and Justice, UNSW Sydney 22. Jane Wangmann, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney 23. Dr Elyse Methven, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney 24. Thalia Anthony, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney 25. Stacy Treloar, Chief Executive Officer, Far West Community Legal Centre & Warra Warra Legal Service 26. Julia Davis, Senior Policy & Communications Officer, Financial Rights Legal Cent 27.Mark Holden, Solicitor, Financial Rights Legal Centre 28. Larissa Baldwin, First Nations Justice Campaign Director, GetUp! 29. Belinda Lowe, Head of Strategic Communication, Grata Fund 30. Isabelle Reinecke, Founder and Executive Director, Grata Fund 31. Katherine McKernan, CEO, Homelessness NSW 32. Ruth Barson and Adrianne Walters, Legal Directors, Human Rights Law Centre 33. Debi Fisher, Acting Principal Lawyer, Hume Riverina Community Legal Service 34. Bronwyn Ambrogetti, Managing Solicitor, Hunter Community Legal Centre 35. Peter Stapleton, individual 36. Roslyn Cook, Centre Director, Inner City Legal Centre 37. Janene Cootes, Executive Officer, Intellectual Disability Rights Service 38. Chris Cunneen, Professor of Criminology, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, UTS 39. Alison Whittaker, Senior Researcher, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, UTS 40. Chris Povey, CEO, Justice Connect 41. Angela Cheng, Solicitor, Legal Aid NSW 42. Robert Pelletier, Executive Officer, Macarthur Legal Centre 43. Lotus Rana, Mentoring and Transition Officer, Macquarie University 44. Vasili Maroulis, Managing Principal Solicitor, Marrickville Legal Centre 45. Justin Abi-Daher, Assistant Principal Solicitor, Marrickville Legal Centre 46. Bettina Cooper, Aboriginal Financial Counsellor, Mob Strong Debt Help - Financial Rights Legal Centre 47. George Newhouse, CEO and Principal Solicitor, National Justice Project 48. Nicole Jenkins, Centre Manager, Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre 49. Peter O'Brien, Solicitor, O'Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors 50. Elle Triantafillou, Solicitor, O'Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors 51. Oliver Creagh, Paralegal, O'Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors 52. Grace Gooley, Solicitor, Public Interest Advocacy Centre 53. Kamani, Lawyer (volunteer), Redfern Legal Centre 54. Joe Murphy, Client Intake Supervisor, Redfern Legal Centre 55. Luke Carr, Solicitor, Redfern Legal Centre 56. Sabina Wynn, General Manager, Seniors Rights Service 57. John Engeler, CEO, Shelter NSW 58. Justine O'Reilly, Principal Solicitor, Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre 59. Kathryn Grimshaw, Generalist and Law Reform Solicitor, Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre 60. Dr Ebony Birchall, Senior Associate, Slater and Gordon 61. Yvette Vignando, CEO, South West Sydney Legal Centre 62. Belinda Smith, Associate Professor, Sydney Law School 63. Ben Boer, Emeritus Professor, Sydney Law School 64. Jason Chin, Lecturer, Sydney Law School 65. Nicole Graham, Associate Dean (Education), Sydney Law School 66. Irene Wardle, Educator, Sydney University 67. Lynette Riley, Associate Professor, Sydney University 68. Mahmoud Al Rifai, Ethnocultural Officer, Sydney University Law Society 69. Wendy Hu, President, Sydney University Law Society Inc 70. Abigail Boyd MLC (Legislative Council), The Greens 71. Jenny Leong MP Member for Newtown, NSW Parliament, The Greens 72. Cate Faehrmann MLC (Legislative Council), The Greens 73. David Shoebridge MLC (Legislative Council), The Greens 74. Jamie Parker MP (Legislative Assembly), The Greens 75. Jenny Leong MP (Legislative Assembly), The Greens 76. Tamara Smith MP (Legislative Assembly), The Greens 77. Jane Sanders, Principal Solicitor, The Shopfront Youth Legal Centre 78. Catherine Smyth, Lecturer, The University of Sydney 79. Joe Alvaro, The University of Sydney 80. Amanda Niland, Lecturer in early childhood education, University of Sydney 81. Dr Judith A Cashmore, Professor of Socio-legal Research and Policy, University of Sydney 82. Tanya Mitchell, Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney 83. Carolyn McKay, Senior research fellow, University of Sydney Law School 84. Louise Boon-Kuo, Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney Law School 85. Simon Rice, OAM, Kim Santow Chair of Law and Social Justice, University of Sydney Law School 86. Alex Steel, Professor of Law, UNSW 87. Eileen Baldry DVC EDI & Professor of Criminology, UNSW 88. Karen Daniels, PhD Candidate, UNSW CCLJ; 89. Simone Rowe, Research Associate; PhD Candidate, UNSW; CCLJ 90. Julia Quilter, A/Prof, UOW 91. Katherine Biber, Professor of Law, UTS 92. Penny Crofts, Professor, UTS 93. Sophie Russell, PhD student, UTS Law 94. Patrick O'Callaghan, Principal Solicitor, Western NSW Community Legal Centre 95. Dr Jenni Whelan, Director, Western Sydney University Justice Clinic 96. Roger West, Director and Principal Consultant, WestWood Spice 97. Christine Robinson, Coordinator, Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Centre 98. Amy Wright 99. Betty Luu 100. Clare Petre 101. Dr G Thanakrishnan, retiree 102. Ellen Dimanoski 103. Lauren Miles 104. Sinem Kirk 105. Timothy Rayner 106. Troy Moffat 107. Maria Monastiriotis, Solicitor, Redfern legal Centre 108. Destiny Valencia, Legal Support Officer, Redfern Legal Centre 109. Rebecca Dominguez, Principal Solicitor, Western Sydney University Justice Clinic 110. Deborah Macmillan, Executive Officer, Central Coast Community Legal Centre 111. David Hofierka, Solicitor, Redfern Legal Centre 112. Sarah Crellin, A/Principal Legal Officer, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) 113. Keisha Hopgood, A/ Principle Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd 114. Georgie Melrose, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service 115. Kirby Hill, Managing Solicitor South Coast, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd 116. Imogen Hogan, Trial Advocate, Aboriginal Legal Service 117. Nicola Breward, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd 118. Matilda Bogart Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd 119. Jack Clifford, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT 120. Laura Melhuish, Solicitor - Bourke, Aboriginal Legal Service 121. Gemma Campagna, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service 122. Heather Webb, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT Ltd 123. Jonathan Cooper, Trial Advocate, Aboriginal Legal Service 124. Rachel Thampapillai, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service 125. Nidal Abdi, Senior Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service 126. Ewa Zieba, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service 127. Jeremy Styles, Managing Advocate, Aboriginal Legal Service 128. Priya Singh, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service (ACT/NSW) Ltd 129. Hugo Atkinson Solicitor Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT Ltd 130. Michelle Hayward 131. Jessica Best, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service 132. Osca Monaghan, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service 133. Lorissa Day, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service 134. Tim McKenzie, Lawyer, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd 135. Zoe De Re, Acting Principal Solicitor (Care & Protection/Family Law Practice), Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd 136. Lauren Skinner, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT Ltd 137. Megan Bennett, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT)Ltd 138. Lucinda Knapp, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service 139. Edward Jegasothy, Epidemiologist, The University of Sydney 140. Zachariah Sayed, Solicitor, Paton Hooke Lawyers 141. Crystal Triggs, Cluster Manager, Aboriginal Legal Service 142. Scarlett Gibbs, Paralegal , Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) 143. Sally Fitzpatrick, Research Fellow, Newcastle University 144. Jasmine Opdam, Solicitor, Redfern Legal Centre 145. Laura Bianchi, Team Leader, Redfern Legal Centre 146. Jacqui Swinburne, Chief Operations Officer, Redfern Legal Centre 147. Ned Cooke, ISTAAS Team Leader, Solicitor, Redfern Legal Centre 148. Alison Mackey, Solicitor, Redfern Legal Centre 149. Sarah Wright 150. Nadine Longbottom, Aged Care Worker 151. Regina Featherstone, Solicitor, Redfern Legal Centre 152. Joshua Gibson, PhD Candidate, UNSW Faculty of Law & Justice 153. Rebecca Scott Bray, Associate Professor of Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies, The University of Sydney 154. Teena Riley 155. Clare Sibraa, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service 156. Ben Harris-Roxas, Senior Lecturer School of Population Health, UNSW Sydney 157. Anna-Louise Hooper 158. Tom Seeney, Partner, James and Jaramillo Lawyers 159. Scott Affleck, Solicitor, Legal Aid NSW 160. Lida Szabunia, Solicitor, Lida's Legal 161. Charlotte, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service 162. Lauren Stefanou, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service(NSW/ACT) 163. Kilty O’Brien 164. Sandra Buck 165. Thomas Eckersley, Solicitor, Nelson Keane & Hemingway Solicitors 166. Rachel Frezza Solicitor, Nightingale Lawyers 167. Tom Battersby, Barrister, Victorian Bar 168. Molly O'Brien 169. Nathaniel Mazari 170. Shannon Huber, Team Leader, Neami National 171. Lee Rhiannon, Former Greens Senator 172. Jane Leete, General Practitioner in an AMS 173. Mark Sinclair Doyle, Barrister 174. Onor Nottle, Socials Director, Sydney University Law Society Inc 175. Menaz 176. Kate Finlayson 177. Sally Knox, Volunteer Legal Assistant, Redfern Legal Centre 178. Mark Vick 177. Ferdous Bahar, Lawyer, Ashurst Australia 178. Kerry Weste, President, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights 179. Alessia R 180. Peter Reay, Public Advocate, Concerned citizen 181. Mina Mina, Director, 2M Consulting PTY LTD 182. Stephen Beale, Owner/Sole Trader, Wiradjuri Nation 183. Nathan Allen, First Nations Officer, Sydney University Law Students Society 184. Eleanor Holden, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT 185. Molly Bland 186. Tess, Solicitor, ALS 187. Michael Stone, Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service 188. Susan Winfield, Solicitor, Marrickville Legal Centre 189. Tara Ward, Managing Solicitor, Animal Defenders Office
190. Andrew Freeman 191. Anabelle von Frankenberg 192. Harriet O'Hare, Solicitor 193. Jennifer Adams 194. Christopher Dixon 195. Hana Abbott 196. Lesley Devisser 197. Nirav Raghwani 198. Disha Jagad
(Signatures updated online: 11 October 2021)