One of the plaintiffs in a NSW Supreme Court case that has the potential to invalidate tens of thousands of COVID-19 fines has had his $1000 infringement withdrawn.
Georgina Mitchell reports for Sydney Morning Herald
Rohan Pank, 30, sued the NSW Police Commissioner and the Commissioner of Fines Administration this week after they refused to cancel a fine he was given for sitting in a park in August 2021 while Sydney was in lockdown.
Pank was within one kilometre of his home, and police who approached him said the fine was given because he was not actively exercising. Later that month, NSW Health would clarify that “sitting for relaxation” was considered to be outdoor recreation.
He sought two reviews of the fine, which were both rejected. Shortly after the court case was filed and served on Thursday, the fine was withdrawn.
Samantha Lee, Redfern Legal Centre’s senior solicitor in police accountability, said no explanation had been given to her client.
“The timing suggests the litigation prompted a further review, which saw the law finally applied correctly in Pank’s case, but we have no further information and no reasons were given,” she said.
“It’s a shame it’s taken Supreme Court proceedings to achieve this, and shows how the existing internal review processes have struggled to correctly interpret the law in certain cases. There are 45,000 more unpaid fines out there, a significant number of which may be invalid.”
The case will continue with two remaining plaintiffs, one of whom received a $1000 fine and one a $3000 fine.
They will argue that their fines are not valid because the penalty notices do not provide enough detail, as required under the Fines Act. This lack of detail makes it difficult to challenge the fines in court because it does not point to a specific offence.
If successful, the case has the potential to apply to tens of thousands of other COVID-19 fines issued across the state, many of which are now up to the enforcement stage.
We are recruiting for a dynamic person who enjoys working in a client facing role to assist people
experiencing disadvantage to navigate the legal assistance sector, and to train and mentor law
students in client intake. This is an identified role for an First Nations person
We are recruiting for an First Nations lawyer to contribute to our innovative and dynamic policing and generalist practices. This is an identified role for people of First Nations descent who identify and are accepted as such in the community.