Fine but not fair: fines and disadvantage, Justice issues paper 3 ( 2008 ) Cite this report
|…And they will quite frequently, particularly if they were perhaps intoxicated at the time and it was something so minor, such as having feet on the seat or telling a Transit Officer to rack off and picking up a $400 a piece for that, they quite easily forget it. Until they get picked up on $1200 worth of fines that are outstanding. All of a sudden they are in court …. So, they don't deal with them, they don't remember having them and then they lose the paperwork which is another thing. As often as IDs get lost, other related paperwork gets lost so we have people call us saying 'I have to be in court and I have no idea when, what date, who…' and sometimes even 'what for'.
— Homelessness worker, Taking justice into custody16
Data from the A2JLN research program also suggest that people with a mental illness are susceptible to receiving fines. Examples were given of people with a mental illness being arrested and fined for behaviour related to their illness that attracted the attention of police or other authorised officers. For instance, recounting her experiences, a young woman with a mental illness said:
|One of them (a fine) was issued when I was mentally unstable at the time, and I ran across the train tracks without using the train bridge, so they issued me a fine…Well after the first fine when I ran across the train tracks, I got another one, for smoking on the platform.
— Homeless young woman, No home, no justice?20
In Taking justice into custody, a Foundation report on the legal needs of prisoners, the vast majority of prisoners interviewed reported having outstanding fines. One inmate estimated his fine debt was in the order of $49 000. More common amounts ranged from $175 to $15 000. Sources of these fines included traffic and transport fines, as well as court-imposed fines from current and past offences. Many of the fines were accrued in the often chaotic period of people's lives before they went to prison.22