Natalie Ahmat: West Australian police have been criticised after a woman was fined $500 for stealing a packet of essential women's care products from a service station in Coolgardie.
The penalty was issued under a controversial new Criminal Code Infringement Notice system.
WA Correspondent Craig Quartermaine reports.
Craig Quartermaine: Shoplifting and other minor stealing offences are being targeted with the new code, with infringements left up to the discretion of the arresting officer.
It's an approach that's drawn fire after a woman was stung with a 500 dollar fine for stealing a pack of tampons valued at $6.45.
Amy Rust, Essentials for Women: Obviously you'd have to find yourself in a pretty dire situation to need to steal sanitary items. Often a problem that's not discussed in charity circles is sanitary items and how essential they are to a woman's health and dignity even, so often women are being forced to chose between food and sanitary items.
And it's an approach that's also be given the approval of the state's Police Minster Liza Harvey.
Police Minster Liza Harvey (written statement): Stealing of any kind is an offence which the community has no tolerance for and this Government doesn't apologise for handing out swift punishment of actual consequence.
Criminal Code Infringement Notices are in effect, swift justice, save court time and allow police to continue frontline duties
But Adelaide-based advocate for disadvantaged women, Amy Rust says there should have been a better way of handling the case.
"People donate food and clothes which is obviously essential, but sanitary items, they don't make the cut"
Amy Rust: Because there is a taboo around periods and menstrual cycles it isn't talked about and people don't know that women needs them so much, and as a result people don't donate them to charity. People donate food and clothes which is obviously essential, but sanitary items, they don't make the cut.
Ms Rust's group provides basic personal sanitary needs for disadvantaged women, and the campaigner has now launched a project to help the Coolgardie woman pay the fine.
"But what has actually happened is 236 people have donated and we're just shy of $4,000 for this woman"
Amy Rust: So what I did was start a crowd funding page with the aim of reaching the $500 for the fine. In all honesty I thought that I'd get $300 and chip in the $200 myself. But what has actually happened is 236 people have donated and we're just shy of $4,000 for this woman.
Having achieved that goal, Essential for Women is now just trying to find out more details about the woman.
Craig Quartermaine NITV News.