Penalty notices: still not such a fine thing for vulnerable people. Alternative formats available on request to PIAC - Contact PIAC
This submission was made in response to the NSW Law Reform Commission Consultation Paper on Penalty Notices and builds on HPLS’s previous work on penalty notices. Despite recent improvements, the penalty notice system continues to generate and exacerbate disadvantage among homeless and other vulnerable people. HPLS highlights the challenges faced by vulnerable people at nearly every stage of the penalty notice process. Due to their visibility and personal and financial circumstances, homeless people are more likely to receive multiple penalty notices but are less likely to effectively respond within the time limits imposed, leading to spiralling debt. The penalty notice itself lacks information about where to obtain independent legal advice, as well as the various ways that a penalty notice may be mitigated. Attention is drawn to the disparity between the penalties imposed for different penalty notice offences, and to the disproportionate impact of the penalties on people surviving on very low incomes. Amongst other recommendations, the submission proposes basing the penalty amounts payable on a proportion of a person’s income.