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Millions owed in COVID fines - but some struggle to pay them

Lockdown protestors face significant fines for their actions. Source: SBS

COVID-19 data shows millions of dollars in fines for breaches of public health orders are overdue in both New South Wales and Victoria. The latest figures for New South Wales from late June up until now shows only $1.6 million dollars of fines has been paid out of a total value of $24 million. But some vulnerable Australians are struggling to cover the penalty costs with legal groups calling for an improved fines system and more data to be made available.

Lawyers supporting people who are fined for COVID-19 breaches are reporting many cannot pay due to financial hardship or other reasons.

And New South Wales data shows of the four million dollars' worth of coronavirus fines, perpetrators have only paid about  half of them ((almost two million dollars)) for offences over a 12 month period

Data from Fines Victoria recorded from the end of March until mid-June this year indicates even more fees are owed, a grand total of almost $55 million.

Nearly 39,000 COVID-19 notices have been issued in Victoria over that time frame, but only about $5.7 million in fines have been paid, with authorities reporting 65 per cent of fines have reached the final demand phase.

But there are concerns that young people living through lockdowns, who have been hit hard during the pandemic, may not come forward to ask for legal help to contest fines.

" We acknowledge only a very small portion of young people or community members probably reach out and access legal advice and support for these fines matters. I think a lot of them are just sitting with them."

She is among several legal professionals who are worried about the difficulties of navigating the complex appeals system.

Ms Overall says she asked the oversight panel for Fines Victoria to review the process in the hopes of developing a fairer system.

But there are also concerns about youth dealing with safety issues and other difficulties as they follow coronavirus rules during lockdown.

Tiffany Overall is the Advocacy and Human Rights Officer at the legal rights centre, Youth Law.

"And what we are observing at YouthLaw through our case work, is that definitely some young people with certain vulnerabilities such as homelessness or experiencing family violence, it does seem there was some sort of focus on them for fines, especially on the early lockdowns"

Click on the player at the top of the page to listen to this audio in Punjabi.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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