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Research Report: Fine but not fair: fines and disadvantage, Justice issues paper 3
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Fine but not fair: fines and disadvantage, Justice issues paper 3  ( 2008 )  Cite this report

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Types of fines

In NSW there are two types of fines issued as financial penalties for minor criminal offences: penalty notices and court enforced fines. Penalty notices are the primary focus of this paper because they are both a prevalent form of penalty and a type of penalty which our research suggests is particularly problematic for some disadvantaged groups.

The NSW Sentencing Council reports that there are 17 000 offences in approximately 100 legislative instruments, which can be dealt with by way of a penalty notice.3 Penalty notices (referred to as 'fines' in this paper) are on-the-spot fines that can be issued by government agencies including local councils, the NSW Police, the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) and RailCorp among others. In the 2007–2008 financial year, 2 889 270 fines were issued, with a total face value of $453 million. Forty five per cent of these fines were issued by the Crown for traffic offences, including speed and red light camera offences.4

However, non-traffic related offences for which fines can be issued include offences such as travelling on a train without a valid ticket,5 littering on public land,6 drinking alcohol in an alcohol free zone7 and ignoring a police officer's direction to 'move on'.8 The NSW Audit Office found that in 2005, 132 000 penalty notices were issued for fare evasion alone on NSW trains and buses. Only one in four fines for fare evasion was paid within 12 months.9


Clarke, S, Forell, S & McCarron, E 2008, Fine but not fair: fines and disadvantage, Justice issues paper 3, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney