Not Such a Fine Thing! On-the-spot fines disadvantage Homeless and Young People

The NSW Government’s scheme to issue on-the-spot fines for minor criminal offences will significantly impact upon homeless and other disadvantaged peoples.

The range of offences under the new scheme that will attract an on-the-spot fine are the kinds of offences that will directly target homeless and young people.

On-the-spot fines have a particular impact on disadvantaged people as there is no consideration of the offenders’ capacity to pay or the circumstances surrounding the offence.

The Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS), a joint initiative of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Public Interest Law Clearing House, is concerned by NSW Premier Morris Iemma’s announcement that the new range of on-the-spot penalties will operate in the same way as the penalty notice system. Since the production of HPLS’s report on the penalty notice system—Not such a Fine Thing!—the NSW Government has recognised the disproportionate impact of penalty notices on disadvantaged people and has worked extensively with HPLS in an attempt to make the system more appropriate, fair and equitable. Given this recognition, HPLS is disappointed by the NSW Government’s introduction of on-the-spot fines for minor criminal offences.

HPLS Co-ordinator, Elisabeth Baraka, says, ‘The introduction of on-the-spot fines for minor criminal offences will only further exacerbate disadvantage amongst those who are already live on society’s margins.’

Another significant concern is the risk of improper use of police powers when issuing fines. Katrina Wong of the Youth and Justice Coalition, a network of youth workers, children’s
solicitors and policy workers that promote the rights of young people in NSW, says, ‘it is important that diversionary options in the Young Offenders Act are considered by police before they issue on-the-spot fines to young people.’

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,

Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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