People experiencing chronic disadvantage often have problems with the police, particularly in relation to their presence in public spaces. QPILCH’s Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic (HPLC) undertakes legal work and helps vulnerable people with their criminal justice interactions, including fines.
Jason’s story shows how the HPLC supports clients who are being entrenched in debt by Queensland’s criminal justice system.
Jason is a 33 year-old Aboriginal man from North Queensland. He has been homeless for a number of years, mostly sleeping rough. Jason has faced personal hardship and health concerns, and has struggled to engage with support services.
Jason completed the Legal Health Check with his support worker at a specialist homelessness agency in Cairns and identified that he wanted legal help to resolve his State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) debt of over $17,600. Over the years, Jason had been fined over 100 times for minor criminal offences mostly related to his homelessness, including being drunk in public, public nuisance and shoplifting.
The HPLC advised Jason about his legal options, helping him to apply for a Fine Option Order to work off the majority of his SPER debt through community service at a local homelessness agency. Jason was “extremely relieved and grateful” at this outcome.
* Name changed to protect the identity