• Alira Kelly-Ryder (second from right) with friends at a Change the Date rally earlier this year. (Supplied)
Just a few days after being told there was an arrest warrant out for her over unpaid fines, Alira Kelly-Ryder was surprised to find out it had been quietly withdrawn and a crowdfunding campaign set up to help.
By
Jessica Minshall

11 May 2018 - 5:10 PM  UPDATED 11 May 2018 - 5:41 PM

West Australian Yamatji woman Alira Kelly-Ryder found out at the beginning of the week that an arrest warrant had been issued for $3744 she owed in unpaid fines.

The mother of four had been unable to keep up with the regular repayments while temporarily unemployed. She was now facing four days in jail that would equate to $250 a day off her debt.

After NITV News reported her story on Wednesday, and a crowdfunding campaign was set up to help pay the debt, Ms Kelly-Ryder was told on Thursday by WA's Fines Enforcement Agency she was no longer facing arrest.

“So I called them yesterday to pay my outstanding amount to drop the warrant and they basically told me that they had some great news for me - that the warrant had been withdrawn, that they don’t want me to go to jail and they were happy to take a minimum of $50 a fortnight off me and they were happy to help me in any way they could,” she told NITV News.

Ms Kelly-Ryder said no one had contacted her to inform her she was no longer facing jail time.

"When he said to me ‘we don’t want you to go to jail’, I said, ‘well that’s funny – you wanted me to go to jail on Monday’," she said.

“I was surprised, but also – my response was what about everybody else in my position; are you going to withdraw theirs?”

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West Australian Yamatji woman and mother of four, Alira Kelly-Ryder, has been told a warrant is out for her arrest over $3744 of unpaid fines.

Despite a commitment from WA Attorney-General John Quigley to change the laws that send those who have defaulted on fine repayments to jail, the government's reform package is yet to go before parliament.

The changes are painfully overdue for Ms Kelly-Ryder and her family. In August 2014, her 22-year-old cousin Ms Dhu died in police custody after being detained for a debt of $3622.

“Ms Dhu is why my family and I are really passionate about changing this legislation. She should never have died the way that she did and ultimately it was over unpaid fines," she said.

"They need to change it and change it now, what are they waiting for, someone else to lose their life?"

Ms Kelly-Ryder's debt was for a range of fines over a long period of time, they included those incurred for unregistered dogs and a parking fine from a hospital visit. 

“I’ve worked all my adult life, I’ve been struggling for the last three months," she said. "Can I not struggle? Don’t we all go through rough times?”

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She also said it shouldn't matter what a fine is for, it should never result in jail time.

"There needs to be something else, maybe some community work or something else. People cannot be imprisoned or criminalised for unpaid fines."

Following the media coverage, a crowdfunding campaign was set up by 'Blackfulla Revolution' to pay Ms Kelly-Ryder's fines.

“It was to my surprise, I woke up to a text, a screenshot from a friend, and I think overnight it had almost hit the target of $4,000," she said.

“I’m so grateful and it really just shows, it’s reassuring that there are people out there that care." 

She's starting her new job next week and is hoping she'll be able to help other women avoid jail time for unpaid fines.

“I’m going to find somebody else who doesn’t have the capacity to pay their fines... and we’ll try to keep them out of jail.”

In a statement, a WA Police spokesperson said: "WA Police officers do not have discretion when carrying out Court orders such as the Warrants of Commitment. They are lawful orders for WA Police officers to take into custody the person named on the warrant and there is no capacity for those officers to ignore or defer that order."

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