Urgent legal advice being sought by courts to clarify how decision could affect pending and finalised cases
Christopher Knaus reporting in The Guardian.
A damning ruling about the legality of Covid fines has prompted New South Wales police to quietly withdraw some infringements from court and forced the judiciary to put all remaining Covid breach cases on hold, pending urgent legal advice.
Earlier this month, the status of tens of thousands of fines issued during Covid restrictions was cast into doubt by a NSW supreme court ruling, which found infringements that failed to properly spell out an alleged offence were invalid.
The ruling created uncertainty around fines that were still being challenged in the state’s lower courts, including by the clients of Redfern Legal Centre.
Samantha Lee, senior solicitor at Redfern Legal Centre, said she was this week notified that police would withdraw fines against her clients who remained locked in court disputes about their infringements.
Lee told the Guardian that police had “made the right decision” by withdrawing the remaining matters involving Redfern Legal Centre’s clients.
“But there will be many more court elected Covid matters that also require certainty,” she said. “It’s time for the NSW police commissioner to withdraw all such matters before the court or risk a stint of cost orders against the state for continuing to pursue these matters for which the originating fine has found to be invalid by the supreme court.”
Redfern Legal Centre wrote to NSW police’s office of general counsel last week, asking for clarification on what would happen to the fines still before the court.
“It is clear from the judgment that all Covid fines are invalid because the fines do not meet the requirements as outlined in the judgment to ensure the fines are valid,” Lee wrote, according to correspondence seen by Guardian Australia. “For this reason, I request that clarification be provided as to whether the Covid fine elected matters before the Local Court will be withdrawn.
Court registries are being directed to adjourn any Covid infringement matters until after 8 May.