The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) has welcomed the decision by the NSW Government to reform the way in which fines can be paid.
Under a new proposal announced today by the NSW Attorney General, the Hon John Hatzistergos, people will have a number of options, other than up-front cash payment, to deal with fines.
One option is a Work and Development Order (WDO), which would require a person to work off the fine through voluntary work with or on behalf an approved community organisation; undertake mental health treatment and/or medical treatment; undertake educational, vocational or life skills course; or undertake financial or other counselling.
CEO of PIAC Robin Banks said, ‘PIAC congratulates the NSW Government, and in particular, the Attorney General, for moving forward with these reforms, first raised in a report by the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS) entitled, Not Such a Fine Thing! The report collected experiences of homeless individuals and the fines system and identified that for people living in poverty the imposition of fines they cannot pay compounds their social and economic disadvantage.’
‘On the basis of this report and HPLS’s submissions to the NSW Sentencing Council, HPLS has been working closely with the NSW Attorney General’s Department to achieve reforms on the issue. Among HPLS’s recommendations was that a voluntary work model be included as an option to ‘pay off’ fines, and that alternative treatment programs for individuals whose offending was the result of mental health, drug and alcohol problems be introduced. It is very gratifying that the HPLS recommendations have been taken up.’ Ms Banks added.
Ms Banks concluded, ‘These reforms will make a very real difference to the experience of homeless people and many others who face disadvantage in our communities. For the first time, they can be proactive in responding to a fine, through giving back to the community in the form of voluntary work in the community. We know, through HPLS, that there are homeless people and community organisations who have wanted this option for some time. I expect the Government’s reforms to be a very successful change in its approach to fines.’
HPLS, a joint project of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Public Interest Law Clearing House, was established in 2004 and now has nine free legal clinics operating in the Sydney metropolitan area. It has provided advice and assistance to more than 2,000 homeless people.
MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,
Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169