World News

Australia scraps 33,000 Covid fines worth millions of dollars


State officials in Australia have scrapped 33,000 Covid fines worth millions of dollars after details of the offences they described were deemed ‘too vague’.

Authorities in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), on the eastern coast of the country, have retracted more than half of the fines handed out during the pandemic following a Supreme Court challenge from a legal aid organisation.

The ‘fail to comply’ fines – which ranged between 1,000 and 3,000 Australian Dollars (€650-€2,000) – had been issued for a variety of alleged offences including ‘carpooling’ and ‘public gathering’, according to news site Insider Paper

Revenue NSW, the administrative division responsible for collecting taxes in Australia’s most populous state, added those who had already paid the fines would be reimbursed. 

Redfern Legal Centre, the legal aid organisation which brought the Supreme Court challenge against three plaintiffs’ fines, hailed the ruling as momentous.

The group alleged that the fines – said to have been worth tens of millions in Australian Dollars – had also been disproportionately handed out to those living in poorer neighbourhoods in the state.

Redfern Legal Centre brought a case before the NSW Supreme Court in July this year, representing three plaintiffs issued with fines – one of whom had their fine withdrawn the day the case was lodged – and arguing the penalty notices didn’t provide sufficient details of the alleged offences.

Samantha Lee, acting principal solicitor at the organisation, said in a statement prior to the ruling: “We know from figures obtained by Redfern Legal Centre from Revenue NSW and Police NSW that COVID-19 fines were disproportionately issued to those living in low socio-economic areas of NSW.

“We also know from our experience advising clients that many fines were issued not in accordance with the law.

“This Supreme Court challenge could have broad implications for all fines issued pursuant to the public health orders during the pandemic, in particular those that did not clearly refer to the relevant offence on the penalty notice.”

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James Gamble

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