RLC in the Media: Redfern Legal Centre police powers solicitor ‘bombarded’ by calls from people who’ve been wrongly fined under COVID-19 public health orders

NSW Police have dropped just 22 of more than 34,000 fines issued for COVID-19 breaches in the first eight months of the year.

Hannah Ryan reports for AAP.

Sam Lee, the police powers solicitor at Redfern Legal Centre, told AAP she has been “bombarded” with calls from people who’d been fined under the public health orders.

Her team believes there’s a legitimate reason to appeal the fine in about 90 per cent of their cases.

In many cases, she said, the police officer issuing the fine appeared to get the law wrong.

The COVID-19 public health orders have changed more than 70 times, she said.

One client was fined as they went to a chemist to get medication for a serious condition.

Despite her belief that the officers dispensing the fines often misunderstood the law, many of her appeals are being knocked back.

A person who’s received an infringement notice can ask Revenue NSW to review the fine. But Lee says the agency is sending reviews back to NSW Police, and that process lacks independence and oversight.

“Police are reviewing their own decisions really, and we’re seeing this as a real fox in charge of the chicken pen situation,” Lee said.

There’s another option - challenging the fine in court.

For many, however, it’s too risky. They could end up with a criminal record, and a maximum penalty of $11,000 or six months in prison, if they’re unsuccessful.

“There’s no recourse, really,” Lee said.

“They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Read the full article here. (Seven News, 16 October 2021)