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Sydney CLC warns against overuse of lockdown fines

Ensuring compliance with public health orders must not be done with the overuse of fines in south-western Sydney, Redfern Legal Centre has warned.

user iconLauren Croft 12 July 2021 Politics
Sydney CLC warns against overuse of lockdown fines
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The overuse of fines in the south-western Sydney region has been called “disproportionate and unjust” by a legal centre this week, as further lockdown restrictions are announced for NSW.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced tighter lockdown restrictions for the Greater Sydney area on Friday, with NSW Police to increase their presence in affected areas.

I need everybody to be shocked – NSW is facing the biggest challenge we have faced since the pandemic started,” the Premier said, when announcing the increased restrictions at Friday’s press conference.


“Do not leave your home unless you absolutely have to.

As part of the operation, almost 200 extra officers will be sent to the Liverpool, Fairfield and Canterbury-Bankstown local government areas in an effort to decrease Sydney’s skyrocketing COVID-19 cases.

However, Samantha Lee, solicitor in the police accountability practice at Redfern Legal Centre, has cautioned against over-fining those in south-western Sydney.

Targeting communities in south-western Sydney with more police and more fines seems disproportionate and unjust,” she said.

“All communities need equal access to health information, resources and support to get through this difficult time. Increasing penalties to lower economic areas is not the answer.”

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon has maintained that the extra presence is necessary, despite criticism that the increased police presence in south-western Sydney is inconsistent with previous outbreaks in other areas of Sydney, such as the Northern Beaches and the Eastern Suburbs.

The fact that we have doubled up into the south-west of Sydney is simply a reflection of the serious nature of the spread of this virus at the moment,” he said in a statement.

[NSW Health is] absolutely concerned about the spread through the south-western suburbs. There are significant areas of contact and areas of concern and that’s the reason why we’re enforcing the rules so heavily.

Figures from Revenue NSW, obtained by Redfern Legal Centre, have revealed that less than a quarter of the 1,854 fines police have issued in the 14 months since being introduced have been paid in full. The data also shows that 22 per cent of the fines – approximately $415,000 of the total $1,854,000 owing – have been paid in full.

Ms Lee added that many people, including those who had lost their jobs during the pandemic or who were on Centrelink benefits, were unable to pay the $1,000 fines, which are not means-tested. She said the process of applying for leniency due to financial hardship was complex.

“The fines are among the largest on-the-spot fines police can issue and the largest that can be issued to a child aged 10 to 18,” she added.

“In just over 15 months the New South Wales public health orders for gathering have changed over 30 times. The current laws tell people they can’t leave their house without a reasonable excuse, but allow people to go buy power tools at Bunnings.

“People are confused, exhausted and just trying to get by.”

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