The Victorian Government has said it won’t withdraw any COVID-related fines given to young people during the pandemic, despite the financial hardship they’re likely to wreak.
In Parliament today, Dr Tim Read asked the Attorney-General whether the government would waive fines given to young people during the pandemic, given many teenagers now have large unpaid fines threatening their futures and no realistic prospects of paying them.
The Attorney-General responded by saying the government had no intention of waiving any of the fines.
According to the COVID-19 Fines Community Lawyer Working Group – a coalition of ten community legal centres in Melbourne – Victoria has fined at least 2,000 children aged between 14 and 17 for COVID-related offences this year.
These young people have been required to pay the same amount as adults for COVID-specific fines, ranging from $200 dollars through to $5,000 dollars. And many of the fines were above the maximum limit of fines allowed in the jurisdiction of the Children’s Court for any offence.
Victorian Greens spokesperson for justice, Dr Tim Read, said many of the young people that have copped a fine during the pandemic come from disadvantaged backgrounds and face disproportionate financial impacts as a result.
Dr Read added that the government’s decision to outright reject the idea of waiving these fines was cruel and didn’t take into account the potential long-standing impacts they would have on young people saddled with them.
While fines have played a role in ensuring Victoria’s compliance with COVID rules, holding serious criminal sanctions over vulnerable children will now increase the risk of their ongoing engagement with the criminal justice system.
As stated by Victorian Greens spokesperson for justice, Dr Tim Read:
“Children from low income families have been disproportionately hit by COVID-related fines and these large unpaid fines are now threatening their future.
“It’s disappointing to hear the government say it has no intention of waiving the fines given to people under 18, given so many young people have no realistic prospects of paying them.
“We need to protect young people from entering the criminal justice system, not push them towards it.”