Pressure is mounting on the Victorian government to follow NSW’s lead and scrap Covid fines issued to members of the public after more than 33,000 fines were axed over the border in NSW.
But Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan has reportedly handballed the call, saying it was up to Victoria’s Attorney-General to judge if the outstanding Covid-related fines would be scrapped.
It comes as legal authorities renewed calls for Covid health order infringements to be thrown out. In Victoria, 40,843 fines were issued for “Covid-related breaches” with just 8.6% paid.
The NSW government will repay almost $33m in Covid fines after the NSW government admitted in court this week that the penalties were invalid.
The backflip affects more than half of the 62,138 penalty notices issued during the State’s pandemic response.
It comes after a Sydney couple took the government to court claiming the fines they had been issued were invalid.
They successfully argued that their fines were issued in such vague terms they could not be legally enforced.
Brenden Beame had been fined $1000 for failing to comply with a Covid direction. Teal Els was fined $3000 for unlawfully participating in an outdoor public gathering.
Justice Dina Yehia agreed the “purported penalty notices” were invalid and ordered the fines be refunded.
The decision means that 33,121 similar fines valued at around $33m will be repaid by the government.
Redfern Legal Centre solicitor Samantha Lee, who represented the pair, said the decision “an extraordinary day for the people of New South Wales”.
“This case has set a precedent that all those fines are invalid and should never have been issued,” she said.
Legal experts said the case had ramifications for people issued similar fines in other states and it was believed similar lawsuits would happen around the country.
There were 19,000 fines handed out in Victoria for breaches of Covid lockdown laws, and tens of thousands across the rest of Australia.
Lee said public health orders changed 71 times between July and September last year – sometimes more than once in one day.
“Everyone was just confused,’ she said. ‘What we have seen was this pattern of people being fined not according to law.
“Public health orders were not being applied correctly by police. What we found was that even Revenue NSW was applying the law wrongly or not applying the law at all.”