RLC in the Media: COVID-19 fines in NSW alone totalled more than $1 million

NSW Police handed out more than $1 million in fines amid the coronavirus pandemic in just over five weeks, with $50,000 in fines given to children, figures reveal.

Sarah Keoghan reports for Sydney Morning Herald

NSW Police handed out more than $1 million in fines amid the coronavirus pandemic in just over five weeks, with $50,000 in fines given to children, figures reveal.

A summary of fines issued at the height of COVID-19 restrictions obtained by the Redfern Legal Centre via freedom of information laws show 1018 on-the-spot fines were issued by officers between March 26 and May 2.

Six per cent of the fines — 58 instances — were issued to offenders under the age of 18.

Samantha Lee, Redfern Legal Centre's head of police accountability practice, is calling for a review of all fines issued to children as the centre announces a free COVID-19 fines advice service.

She said the figure is likely to be more than $1 million, with police also handing out $5000 fines for spitting and coughing on workers.

Ms Lee argues that under the Criminal Procedure Act, anyone under the age of 18 years is exempt from penalty notices. But with COVID-19 offences falling under different legislation, children as young as 10 can be hit with an infringement notice.

NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller said 17,000 police are on the ground and ready to hand out fines.

“The fines are among the largest on-the-spot fines police can issue and the largest on-the-spot police fine that can be issued to a child aged 10 to 18," she said.

The figures handed over by NSW Police do not include fines given out after May 2. While there were fewer fines given out in May due to easing of restrictions, multiple $1000 fines were still issued by officers.

“These fines are a significant monetary penalty and have been issued during a time when many people are facing dire financial circumstances," Ms Lee said. 

Read the full article here (Sydney Morning Herald, 15 June 2020)