More than 33,000 COVID-19 fines will be cancelled in NSW after two test cases in the state’s Supreme Court.
The legal challenge was brought by the Redfern Legal Centre, which repped three plaintiffs. Now, Revenue NSW made the call to cancel certain fines issued when the state had public health orders in place over lockdown.
9News reported that in court, the lawyer for the Commissioner of Fines Administration conceded the fines didn’t “sufficiently state or describe the offences in general terms”. They also didn’t identify the “offence-creating decision”.
To put that in simpler terms, the fines in question were legally invalid because they didn’t describe what offence had taken place specifically enough.
Lawyer Katherine Richardson SC told the Supreme Court approximately 32,648 fines had the same vague wording as one copped by plaintiff Brendan Beame, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
“In all likelihood every single one of those fines is invalid as well,” she said.
Plaintiff Teal Els was charged $3000 by police after she was sitting in a park with her sister after exercising. According to the ABC, Richardson said in court that Els didn’t know what exactly she was being fined for. She also said more than 160 people had copped the same fine.
“How can [Els] tell, for example, having no idea what offence she said to have committed with a penalty amount of $3000, which is obviously a very significant amount of money to be imposed by notice procedure,” she said.
While the Supreme Court was adjourned, Revenue NSW put out a statement saying more than 33,100 fines would be withdrawn. Those fines are in relation to “section 7/8/9 — COVID-19”.
A spokesperson said this doesn’t mean “the offences were not committed” though, per The SMH.
“Redfern Legal Centre has challenged penalty notices issued for contraventions of COVID-19 Public Health Orders on the technical basis that the notices do not provide a sufficiently detailed description of the offence committed and are therefore invalid,” said Revenue NSW’s statement.
“The Commissioner of Fines Administration is able to independently review or withdraw penalty notices.”
This means over half of the total 62,138 COVID fines have been cancelled.
Revenue NSW has also confirmed everyone who’d paid off one of those fines would now be paid back.
There’s a chance other COVID-19 fines will be paid back, but we won’t know until 2023 when Justice Dina Yehia delivers a judgement.