Penalty notices: still not a fine thing

People experiencing homelessness can often owe up to $10,000
in unpaid fines, with no hope of paying these debts. Such penalties serve to further
entrench poverty and disadvantage.

For this reason, the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS) has
advocated for significant reforms to the penalty notice system over the past
five years.

Changes introduced so far include Work and Development
Orders and official cautions.

HPLS now hopes for another round of reform, following discussions
earlier this year with the NSW Law Reform Commission (LRC) and submissions to
the LRC’s inquiry into the penalty notice system.

HPLS recommendations include :

  • establishing a central body to oversee the
    penalty notice system;
  • amending penalty notices to include contact
    details for obtaining independent legal advice;
  • making cautions mandatory if an enforcement
    officer suspects a person is homeless or has a mental illness, intellectual
    disability or cognitive impairment;
  • overhauling all penalty notice amounts to ensure
    they reflect the relative seriousness of the of the offence;
  • introducing a concession rate for people
    surviving on Centrelink benefits;
  • reducing the amount owed for people on low
    incomes; and
  • creating a ‘special circumstances list’ in the
    local courts where vulnerable defendants could have all of their outstanding
    criminal matters and debts finalised in a single hearing.

Read the HPLS submission, Penalty notices: still not such a fine
thing for vulnerable people.

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