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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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Conclusion


Fines are issued for a range of minor offences and are a valuable alternative to matters being taken to court. However, Foundation research suggests that people experiencing social or economic disadvantage are more vulnerable to incurring fines as a result of issues such as homelessness and mental illness. The situation is exacerbated by the number and range of finable offences and the lack of proportionality between some offences and the penalty amounts. Further, fines can disproportionately impact on people who are socially and economically disadvantaged and may lead to the accrual of multiple unpaid fines. This can in turn compound a person's disadvantage, especially when facing barriers to legal assistance.

The NSW penalty notice system is difficult for disadvantaged people to negotiate, has little accommodation for those with 'special circumstances' and has few options available to those who are prepared to clear their fines although their financial means may be limited.

This paper questions whether the NSW fines processing system could draw on other models and initiatives, such as a cautioning scheme, proportional fines or a special court like the California Homeless Court, to become more effective in addressing the access to justice needs of people experiencing social or economic disadvantage.



  


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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