The Victorian government rejected has calls to waive around $3 million worth of lockdown fines dished out to people under 18 – many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds – because those kids still broke the law at the end of the day.
It comes after a coalition of ten legal centres in Melbourne found that around 2,000 people aged between 14 and 17 have copped fines for allegedly breaching lockdown restrictions this year.
“The government has no intention of withdrawing fines that have been lawfully imposed,” Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said on Tuesday, after state Greens MP Dr Tim Read called for them to be waived.
Some of these children were required to pay the same amount as an adult, with some fines totaling as much as $5,000, which is more than the maximum limit of fines allowed in the jurisdiction of the Children’s Court for any offence.
Back in October it was revealed that almost all of the 19,000 fines dished out this year hadn’t been paid yet, meaning there is still a very real chance to waive them for young people. We also already knew that because of the way these restrictions were being enforced, these fines disproportionately affected Aboriginal and migrant communities.
“Children from low income families have been disproportionately hit by COVID-related fines and these large unpaid fines are now threatening their future,” Read said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s disappointing to hear the government say it has no intention of waiving the fines given to people under 18, given so many young people have no realistic prospects of paying them.”
“We need to protect young people from entering the criminal justice system, not push them towards it.”
When Read asked Hennessy a follow-up question about what the government was doing to make sure these fines don’t ruin teenagers lives, Hennessey gave a vague and dismissive answer: “A minute would not give me enough time to talk about the reform and investment that this government is making around early intervention and changing the lives of young people.”
Nevertheless, Hennessy said the government is investing in education and work opportunities. That’s still not the same as waiving a fine, though.