|…if it’s a choice between being able to pay for your bed in emergency accommodation or paying your fine, you know which one you are going to choose. So this becomes almost like this insurmountable issue that just can’t be dealt with.
— Homelessness worker, No home, no justice? 2
Research undertaken by the Foundation as part of the A2JLN research program suggests that 'fines' and penalty notices can have a significant and disproportionate impact on the lives of disadvantaged people. We particularly noted the impact on those who are homeless, young, on low incomes, who experience mental illness and/or have unstable or chaotic lives, including periods of imprisonment. Some disadvantaged people are more vulnerable to receiving fines, are more likely to accrue multiple fines, have less capacity to pay fines and can accumulate significant debt for unpaid fines. As fines remain unpaid, disadvantage is further compounded as driver licenses and car registration are affected. While changes are being made, the fine processing system in NSW is cumbersome and difficult to navigate. This makes it difficult for disadvantaged people to address their fine-related debt, even when they are willing to do so. This paper will first describe the fine enforcement system before discussing its impact on disadvantage.
Information here is largely drawn from the Foundation's A2JLN research program. In a number of separate but related projects, this program has employed a mix of methodologies — quantitative, qualitative and analyses of service usage data — to explore the legal needs and access to justice issues facing disadvantaged people in NSW. The specific reports referred to are listed on page 12. The paper also refers to other significant reports on fines and fine enforcement processes.