• Jail for unpaid fines are a controversial issue in WA. Signs put up by supporter of Ms Dhu outside the coroner's court in Perth on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (AAP)
A heavily pregnant 23-year-old West Australian single mother said she has been threatened with six days in jail unless she can come up with $1000 to pay her fines.
By
Madeline Hayman-Reber

Source:
NITV News
17 Oct 2017 - 2:42 PM  UPDATED 17 Oct 2017 - 3:00 PM

A young single mother says she is at risk of being jailed under Western Australia's jail-for-fine-defaulter laws that saw Ms Dhu locked up before she died.

The woman, who has asked not to be named for privacy reasons, is 37 weeks pregnant, has a 16-month-old son and survives on little more than $300 a week on the single parent pension.

She reportedly has $4123.45 in unpaid fines and has told NITV News that she has been subject to repeated police visits that she believes to be excessive.

“They just have been rocking up at random times of the night, 11 o’clock at night you know, and banging on my back door with their torches,” she said.

“[They're] pretty much giving me the feeling where I have to wake up in the morning and leave with my son.

"I feel like they’re going to come into my house and take me away from my boy and take [my son] into the Department for Child Protection.”

She said she has been offered “a few days” to make up her mind about whether or not she will make a payment of $1000 or do six days in jail.

WA still locking people up for unpaid fines after Ms Dhu's death
Fine defaulters face jail despite Dhu case and coronial inquest.

Although the police have already spoken to the woman, she says she does not know why they continue coming over.

“They’re harassing me because they never had an address for me for quite some years, but now that they do, they feel the need to harass me every day,” the young woman said.

WA Police have been approached for comment.

Social justice activist Gerry Georgatos said he has asked the West Australian Attorney General John Quigley to act urgently.

“I’ve contacted his Chief of Staff, Colleen Egan, and asked them to go to Parliament, first opportunity, and do what is appropriate to suspend the current legislation that warrants or forces police officers to do background checks for unpaid fines for individuals and then arrest them,” Mr Georgatos said.

“I’ve asked that this come to an end while they continue to inquire into alternatives to unpaid fines that will not see people jailed.”

After speaking to the young mother herself, he said that she is quite shaken up over the whole ordeal.

“She’s quite distressed about the prospect of having to go to jail for unpaid fines,” Mr Georgatos said.

“She cried when the police told her she’d have to go to jail to pay them off. She doesn’t want her bub born in jail.”

But the terrified young woman feels powerless and fears for her son if she gets locked up.

“They have too much power over me, and I just don’t like the feeling that I have to leave my house,” she said.

“If I did go to jail, then I’d probably be a bit of a mess in there because I would be worried about my family. I’ve never been to prison, let alone seen one.”

Previously, the Attorney General supplied NITV News with a statement on the jail-for-fine-defaulter’s system, labelling it as ‘scandalous’.

“I intend to introduce a package of amendments to the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Act 1994 (WA), the effect of which will be to reduce the number of people imprisoned for fine default alone," the Attorney General said. 

“I have examined the approach taken in other jurisdictions in relation to jailing for fines and I will be in a position to bring forward a reform package to Cabinet before the end of the year.”

The Attorney General also expressed that “the McGowan Labor Government has committed to introducing the Custody Notification Service:".

"We are working through the coroner’s recommendations with a view to improving outcomes for Indigenous people in our community,” the statement read.

“Recommendations 6 and 7, which sit under the portfolio of the Attorney General, are both under active consideration.

Today Mr Quigley exclusively told The West Australian that he was considering a Centrelink repayment system for fine defaulters.

“I am considering a number of enhancements to the fines-enforcement system, including garnishing welfare payments to recover unpaid debt,” Mr Quigley said.

“We are at the stage of talking to the Commonwealth as it would require intergovernmental arrangements.

“We have not yet arrived at a concluded position.”

Gerry Georgatos has also started a petition to stop jailing people for unpaid fines.