The West Australian Government has rid itself of fines-enforcement laws that imprisoned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with “systemic bias”. Source: The Australian.
By Victoria Laurie, The Australian
Attorney-General John Quigley says he is proud to have reformed an unfair law that disproportionately targeted the state’s indigenous citizens who were unable to pay fines and went to jail instead.
The Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Amendment Bill passed both houses on Tuesday night, eight years after successive state governments vowed to significantly change the way fines were enforced and recovered.
Until the late-night passage of the bill, Western Australia was the only jurisdiction that permitted fine defaulters to spend time in prison to “cut out” fines at a rate of $250 a day for offences dealt with in a criminal court.
Mr Quigley said he was proud to have reformed an unjust law that had a “systemic bias”.
“It disproportionately affected Indigenous West Australians who through no fault of their own can’t pay the fines. This reform was long overdue — we jail Aboriginal people at 70 per cent higher than the national average, and that’s a national scandal,” he said.
“People who are vulnerable or have mental health issues don’t get around to paying their fine and it’s costing the taxpayer a fortune. To put someone in jail to cut out a $2500 fine is 10 days in prison at a cost of $6000. That is economic madness.
“We are the last jurisdiction to make this step out of the dark ages, and I’m very proud to have brought this before parliament.”
He said 1300 outstanding warrants would be cancelled, which is likely to lift the threat of imprisonment from 238 individuals.
One of the key changes will see imprisonment relegated to a sanction of last resort.
Fine debtors will be offered a variety of ways to pay court fines, including deductions from wages or community service with football clubs and shire councils, which will log the hours attended.
‘Indigenous-biased’ fines law scrapped in WA (The Australian)