The Fines Amendment Act 2019 No 13 (NSW), which will introduce significant changes to the Fines Act 1996 (NSW), has been adopted by the NSW Parliament and was assented to on 21 November 2019.
Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) informed submissions by Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW) and met with NSW Minister for Customer Service, Victor Dominello, to ensure the concerns and needs of its clients were voiced and considered by Parliament before the initial Bill was passed.
“The current fines system has allowed hundreds, if not thousands of dollars’ worth of fines debt to accumulate over the years on the backs of people already struggling to make ends meet, including people in severe financial hardship, people with disabilities and people who are homeless.” said RLC's credit and debit solicitor, David Hofierka.
The changes include provisions that will allow an eligible person in receipt of a government benefit to apply for a 50% reduction to their fine penalty notices.
Another positive change will prohibit the automatic reallocation funds from overpaid fines to pay off another outstanding fine. This will apply to people receiving a government benefit or who fit under another class of vulnerability, which could include refugees, those on temporary bridging visas, the homeless, and victims of domestic and family violence.
RLC’s police accountability and administrative law solicitor, Samantha Lee agrees. “Fines disproportionately impact on those who are of low socioeconomic means, because the cost of a fine is not proportionate to a person’s income. The amendments to the Fines Act go some way towards a fairer fines system.”
RLC will continue to support people who come for assistance when they are under pressure to deal with their fines by providing advice and assistance with reviews and appeals and through other options, including through suitable hardship arrangements, and Work Development Orders.