Revenue NSW has conceded that many COVID-19 fines are invalid. But what does that mean for the rest of the community who may have received or paid fines?
Covid fines test case
Earlier this year, Redfern Legal Centre filed a test case in the Supreme Court of NSW for three people who had received COVID-19 fines, Mr Rohan Pank, Mr Brendan Beame and Ms Teal Els. We argued that their fines were invalid because they did not specify the relevant offence alleged to have been committed, as required by the Fines Act 1996 (NSW). The Defendants in the case were the Commissioner of Police and the Commissioner of Fines.
LCM Finance supported the plaintiffs by providing a costs indemnity.
Revenue NSW withdrew one of the fines soon after we filed the case.
Supreme Court decision
On Tuesday 29 November 2022 the remaining two cases were due to be heard. The day before the hearing, the government conceded or agreed that the two plaintiff’s fines were invalid.
The NSW Supreme Court made declarations that the Penalty Notices (fine notices) issued to the two plaintiffs in the case were invalid. The Court also ordered the Commissioner of Fines to refund all monies paid towards the fines by the plaintiffs.
The Court has yet to hand down its reasons.
What does the decision mean for people with Covid fines?
The Penalty Notices of the two plaintiffs recorded the “offence description” as:
"Fail to comply with noticed direction in relation to section 7/8/9 – COVID-19 – Individual”
“Unlawfully participate in outdoor public gathering – Area of concern - Individual”
The Court’s decision means that all Penalty Notices with the same offence description are invalid.
On the day of the Court hearing, Revenue NSW announced that all Penalty Notices with the description in 1. above were withdrawn. If you have a Penalty Notice with the description in 1 above, your Penalty Notice has been withdrawn and you do not have to pay the fine. If you have already paid the fine, you are entitled to a refund. We expect Revenue NSW will soon make it clear how people can obtain any refunds they are entitled to.
Revenue NSW has not announced that Penalty Notices with the description in 2. above are withdrawn. We consider that these Penalty Notices are invalid in accordance with the Court’s decision and we plan to write to the NSW government to ask for further information about this issue.
We need to wait for the Court’s reasons to be handed down before we know the full impact of the case for other COVID-19 fines, as well as other fines.
SEE REVENUE NSW'S STATEMENT BELOW
In the media
Revenue NSW cancels more than 33,000 COVID-19 fines after Supreme Court hearing (ABC News, 29 November 2022)