The State’s fines enforcement regime is to be updated through new legislation passed by the Parliament.
Described as ‘outdated and economically flawed,’ the system’s key changes contained in the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Amendment Bill 2019 will see imprisonment for non-payment of fines restricted so it can only be ordered by a Magistrate, and even then only as a sanction of last resort.
Attorney General, John Quigley said this was a recommendation from the Coronial Inquiry into the death of Ms Dhu, who was taken into custody on a warrant of commitment for unpaid fines in 2014.
Mr Quigley said the new Bill amended a 1994 Act and also included the introduction of garnishee orders.
“This will enable the Sheriff to issue orders to a debtor’s employer or bank and require them to garnish funds from salaries or bank accounts,” Mr Quigley said.
“Safeguards have been built into this process to require a ‘protected amount’ to remain in a person’s salary or bank account to avoid creating excessive hardship.”
He said the statutory concept of ‘hardship’ had been introduced, which took into consideration mental illness and disability, experience of family and domestic violence, homelessness, drug and alcohol problems and financial hardship.
“Work and development permits will become an option for debtors experiencing hardship affecting their ability to pay their fine debts,” Mr Quigley said.
“In recognition of the disproportionate impact of suspended licenses on debtors living in remote areas without public transport infrastructure, the new laws prohibit the issuing of licence suspension orders for debtors whose last known address is in a remote area.”
He said all unserved warrants of commitment would be cancelled the day after the legislation received Royal Assent.
“While these debts will not be wiped, the fear of imprisonment for fine default for hundreds of Western Australians will be removed,” the Attorney General said.