RLC in the Media: Australia: NSW police are fining teens for visiting their friends

With over a thousand now imposed statewide, the controversial COVID-19 infringement notices that NSW police has been issuing since 26 March are some of the steepest on-the-spot fines available to it.

Paul Gregoire reports for Sydney Criminal Lawyers

On 21 April, Wollongong police stopped a 17-year-old male on Lawrence Street in Woonona. The teenager said he was bored, so he’d been visiting a friend. The youth had already been hit with two $1,000 public health fines in the past, and the attending officers saw fit to slap him with a third.

Indeed, going back over the NSW police daily breakdowns of pandemic-related fines handed out over the last fortnight, five of them had been imposed upon minors: one was given to a 15-year-old, two 16-year-olds were issued with one each and so too were two 17-year-olds.

“Being hit with a $1,000 fine will be financially crippling, yet the NSW police seem to be handing them out like confetti, including fining very young people,” NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “What 16-year-old has $1,000?”

The Greens justice spokesperson explained that when NSW parliament was considering the COVID-19 emergency powers bill passed on 24 March, the option of youth justice alternatives for people under 18 years of age was broached with the attorney general.

The Redfern Legal Centre’s police accountability solicitor Samantha Lee pointed out that section 335 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW) specifically rules out fines being issued to youths under 18 years of age. But this only applies to fines related to that legislation.

“These fines don’t fall under the Criminal Procedure Act,” Ms Lee explained in mid-April. “These fines fall under the Fines Act, which means there are limited areas for review. An we’re advocating for these fines not to be issued to children.”

“There is no way that 16 or 17-year-olds should be getting $1,000 fines, but there’s a gap in the legislation,” Shoebridge concluded.

“We asked the attorney to address this, but he wouldn’t.”

Read the full article here (Sydney Criminal Lawyers, 10 May 2020)