RLC in the Media: “Majority” of COVID fines in NSW are bogus, expert claims

Millions of dollars in Covid fines have already been handed out in NSW, and increased penalties are now in force across the state – which is likely to see the figure spike.

The Big Smoke reports.

Statistics from Revenue NSW show more than 10,000 fines have been issued for breaches of Covid rules between March 2020 and July 2021, bringing the total to a figure beyond $9m.

What’s more, in July 2021, 6,815 fines were issued, representing three times the fines handed out in the year that preceded it. Despite this, Samantha Lee, a police accountability solicitor at Redfern Legal Centre, told The Guardian that she believes “the majority” of cases her centre are handling “have a legal argument for the fine to be withdrawn”.

“We are of the view that in the majority of the cases coming to us, the police have applied the law incorrectly,” she said.

“I believe that we’re not even at the tip of the iceberg. I think we’re looking at a systemic failure by the police. There will be I think thousands of more fines that have potentially been issued incorrectly.”

They disproportionately punish people who are currently without work, who are currently suffering income losses from having their businesses closed, or because their working hours have been reduced.

Even with well-meaning Government financial assistance (which many won’t qualify for), there are many people in New South Wales who are struggling to make ends meet right now.

In recent days NSW Police posted photos to social media showing ADF forces in Western Sydney handing out food parcels.

This is the very real impact of lockdowns on people who have a lower socioeconomic status. I

n some cases, particularly with fines now so steep, some people will have to make very serious choices about money.

For those who get fined, perhaps that choice will come down to deciding whether to pay for the roof over their head, or the fine itself.

Read the full article here. (The Big Smoke, 7 October 2021)