The Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic) (“FR Act”) and the Fines Reform Infringements Acts Amendment Act 2016 (Vic) (“FRIAA Act”) will significantly change Victoria’s infringements and fines systems. The entire FR Act will be in effect by 31 December 2017, with various parts coming into effect earlier. In summary, the main changes that the FR Act will introduce by 1 July 2017 are:
• the introduction of “work and development permits” (WDPs) that allow people with special circumstances, or who are experiencing acute financial hardship, to deal with fines by non-monetary means (e.g. by participating in rehabilitative and therapeutic programs, education activities or community work);
• the inclusion of family violence as a special circumstance;
• the harmonisation of sentencing powers available to courts for infringement fine defaults, with those that are available for court fine defaults under part 3B of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic), making imprisonment a sanction of last resort for infringement fine default;
• the introduction of internal review guidelines and oversight for enforcement agencies;
• the expansion of the scheme that allows people serving non-infringement related prison sentences to “call-in” outstanding infringement warrants and serve them concurrently. The time served is counted from the date the person entered custody.
Other changes to be brought in (by 31 December 2017) by the FR Act and FRIAA Act include:
• the establishment of Fines Victoria as a single administrative body for the collection and enforcement of infringement fines and court fines, including:
– providing oversight and reviewing decisions of enforcement agencies,
– determining enforcement review applications and cancelling fines unless an enforcement agency opts-in,
– developing guidelines to ensure enforcement agencies conduct internal reviews consistently,
– managing the WDP scheme,
– processing applications for payment plans in relation to all fines,
– monitoring and reporting on the fines process;
• the review of enforcement orders by Fines Victoria, including the provision that if an enforcement order is cancelled by Fines Victoria, the enforcement agency must opt-in to prosecute within 28 days;
• more robust enforcement mechanisms, particularly once infringements are at warrant stage.
Check whether the most recent version of the Infringements Act 2006 (Vic) includes changes introduced by the FR Act and FRIAA Act. If you are unsure about whether the FR Act or FRIAA Act has changed the law in a particular area, seek legal advice (see “Contacts”).