RLC announces free legal advice service for people in NSW with COVID-19 fines

People in NSW who have received a COVID-19 on-the-spot fine can contact RLC for free legal advice.

In just over a month, NSW Police issued over a $1 million in fines for breach of social distancing orders under the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW), figures obtained by Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) via access to information laws reveal.

The data, obtained by RLC and published by The Sydney Morning Herald, shows that NSW Police issued a total of 1018 on-the-spot fines to individuals from (26 March 2020 to 8 May 2020) under s10 and 11 of the Public Health Act 2010.

Out of the total number of fines issued, 94 per cent were issued to adults (960) and 6 per cent were issued to children aged 10 to 17 years (58). This amounts to a total of $1,018,000 in fines, $50,000 of which were issued to children.

“The fines are among the largest on-the-spot fines police can issue, and the largest on-the-spot police fine that can be issued to a child aged 10 to 18," RLC police accountability solicitor Samantha Lee said. 

Children as young as ten can be issued with a fine under s10 of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW). This is different to a penalty notice issued for a criminal offence, which prohibits penalty notices being issued to children under the age of 18 years (s335, Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW).

RLC is of the view that the same protections against being issued a penalty notice for criminal offences should have been extended to public health fines.

"These fines are a significant monetary penalty, and have been issued during a time when many people are facing dire financial circumstances," Ms Lee said.

RLC is concerned that many of the individuals fined would not have the means to pay a $1,000 fine, and believes that many fines may have been issued unlawfully because the public health orders have been made in haste and have been very difficult to understand and apply. 

In response, RLC has set up a free COVID-19 fines advice service to provide the public with their payment and review options.

Getting help with COVID-19 fines in NSW

RLC’s key tips:

Tip 1: Deal with fines promptly.

Tip 2: If you don’t pay a fine, the fine amount will be increased and your licence could be suspended.

Tip 3: Your options for appealing a fine reduce as the fine becomes more overdue.

If you feel NSW Police have given you a fine unfairly and you wish to dispute it, or if you are experiencing hardship, there are options you can take. 

  • pay the fine in full or make arrangement to pay by instalments
  • seek an internal review via Revenue NSW
  •  appeal the fine to court
  • apply for a Work and Development Order (WDO)
  • seek a write-off of the fine.

Download RLC's COVID-19 police powers factsheets for further information:

If you, or someone you know, has received a COVID-19 fine in NSW, contact RLC for free and confidential advice at www.rlc.org.au/contact

See also

COVID-19 fines in NSW alone totalled more than $1 million (Sydney Morning Herald, 15 June 2020)

COVID-19 fines discussed on ABC TV's The Drum (ABC TV, 21 April 2020)