Some Pandemic Fines Were Issued By Unauthorised Vic Cops So Groups Say They Should All Be Waived


Legal groups are calling for all fines issued by Victoria Police for breaches of COVID-19 restrictions to be waived after reports of unauthorised cops handing them out.

An investigation has been launched by the Department of Justice and Community Safety into whether dozens  of newly hired officers were authorised to issue fines during lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

The Victorian Government hired a wave of new cops after a recruitment drive in late 2020 to enforce its public health orders, including issuing fines for breaching lockdowns.

They were given broader powers to detain, move on, arrest and fine members of the public, and undertook paid training.

But the Herald Sun has reported that as many as 40 who handed out fines were not properly appointed and did not have the authorisation to do so.

A Department of Justice and Community Safety spokesperson said it was “currently reviewing our administrative processes relating to the appointment of a small number of authorised officers and the issuing of some enforcement outcomes under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act.”

It’s been 12 months since the state government announced it would review fines issued, which resulted in hundreds of fines being challenged in the magistrates court.

Local legal groups have been calling for fines to be waived since then. They say they caused hardship and were disproportionately targeted at marginalised communities. Surprise surprise.

In some cases they had even been issued to people who were following the rules.

In December 2020 the government said it would not waive about $3 million worth of lockdown penalties dished out to people under 18 — many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds  — because hey, the law’s the law, they said.

But legal groups are saying the new investigation into unauthorised police ought to change that.

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service CEO Nerita Waight told Guardian Australia that Victoria had issued more fines for pandemic order breaches than “almost any other jurisdiction globally” and that funding could’ve been put to better use in the health system.

Although Victoria Police has refused to released data on the demographics of people who were fined, Waight said First Nations people were issued COVID fines at a higher rate than the rest of the community.

“This unfairness was exacerbated by the lack of an independent review process for COVID fines.

“Waiving fines issued by officers without the correct authorisation is the right thing to do, as the community shouldn’t have to suffer because of the government’s stuff up.”