Disadvantaged members of society are more likely to interact with the justice system and to have issues that result in repeat encounters with enforcement authorities. Fines and infringement notices have a significant impact on the marginalised groups in the community – the clients of Queensland’s community legal centres.
Often fines and infringements are part of a cycle where people incur penalties at times of crisis or as a result of chronic disadvantage. As people cannot pay, they are driven further into debt and greater involvement with the criminal justice system through the sanctions and enforcement costs that follow. Many disadvantaged people accrue significant unpaid fines for public space, public order and public transport offences.
The factors leading to this increased vulnerability also impacts a person's capacity to pay a fine and impedes their ability to deal with SPER and navigate the enforcement process.
The current fines enforcement and collection system in Queensland does not appropriately recognise or respond to vulnerability and marginalisation. At present, in our experience the system generates, reinforces and exacerbates disadvantage by failing to provide accessible and non-financial options to address unpaid fines. Consequently, significant resources are spent by government to enforce fines that may never be recovered or may not be recovered within a reasonable time.
We’ve joined with 14 other community organisations to suggest that Queensland introduce a well-resourced, fair and collaborative Work and Development Order (WDO) scheme.