Melbourne pensioner Peter Clark has offered to pay yet another fine for a young mother who is at risk of incarceration for unpaid fines.
Previously, he paid an incarcerated Noongar mother of five’s fines after reading a media story about her.
The woman had been locked up after she called the police regarding a domestic violence incident. The police conducted a background check on her instead, and arrested her for unpaid fines.
This time, Mr Clark had been browsing Facebook when he came across NITV News’s article about a heavily pregnant single mother who was at risk of spending 6 days in jail if she did not come up with $1000.
“I’m putting my hand up and saying, 'for heaven’s sake! If this is what it takes...' I’m a pensioner, I’ve got no money, I’ve got a credit card,” he told NITV News.
“I’m more than happy to pay the $1000 to keep the police away from her door, and I’m sure there are other folks in the community who could make up the deficit.”
Social Justice Activist Gerry Georgatos, who is advocating on the young mother’s behalf, said that there have been many offers to help.
“Peter and many others have put up their hand and we can’t say no to this, so we will take up the generosity of one these people,” Mr Georgatos said.
"We've worked with police and they've dished up discretion in lifting the warrant so that the mother does not finish up in jail," he said.
"A repayment plan has been agreed to by the mum. We are still going to accept the generous donations and pay down the fines so there's respite for the mum and that her focus is to afford the essentials for her baby."
However, he worries that the generosity of others will soon wear thin, so he is urging the West Australian state government to look into making fines more reasonable.
“We need to make fines affordable and not punish the poor for being poor,” Mr Georgatos explained.
“We can’t keep on reeling on the generosity of others and for everyone that we do help and get across the line, we have scores of others who we don’t even know about who are falling right through the cracks. That comes with damage, and some of that trauma is irreversible.”
One of the suggestions Mr Georgatos has for the WA State Government is the implementation of a fine system modelled from the Scandinavian system, which sees the cost of a fine based on individuals incomes.
“They can try and make it affordable for all people and not impose an unaffordable fine on someone from the beginning. It will never be paid off because they can’t afford to pay it off,” he insists.
“If some fines are that high and don’t take into consideration things like living below the poverty line for instance, for those in acute poverty, it discriminates against them.”
A spokesman for the WA Attorney General said there were talks under way regarding the implementation of a Scandinavian-like fine system.
"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," the spokesman said in a statement.
Mr Georgatos has personally rallied funds together for hundreds of people over the years. He has even used his own money.
“I have spent tens of thousands of dollars getting people out of jail,” Mr Georgatos admitted.
“We can’t keep on doing this. Everyone knows if they call me up that I’ll pay it out of my own pocket. But how long is this going to continue on? It becomes exhaustive.”