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Government to review infringement system

Government to review infringement system

The infringement system, first introduced in 1968 for parking offences, is to be reviewed

A comprehensive review of the infringement system will be undertaken this year despite recent increases in the number of unpaid fines being collected, Courts Minister Rick Barker announced today. "Over recent years both the rate of collection, and the total collected, has improved markedly, with a record $150 million collected last year and $180 million to $190 million expected to be collected this year.

"Thanks to several government initiatives, such as the naming of fine defaulters in newspapers and intensive enforcement campaigns, the level of overdue fines actually fell last year.

"While we will continue to keep the pressure on fine defaulters through activities like the clamping and confiscation of vehicles, the Government also believes it is time to look at the overall infringement system, given the significant increase in the volume of fines being imposed and the growth in the number of infringement regimes."

Infringement notices were first introduced in 1968 for parking offences and overloading offences on heavy vehicles. There are now 22 different infringement regimes in force, with 130 authorities involved in handing out, collecting and enforcing fines. In 1992/93, $38 million in overdue fines was referred to the courts for collection, compared with $202 million in 2002/03.

Mr Barker said there was now a clear need for the Government to consider a simplified and more effective infringement system. "The review will look at all operational issues, including whether current timeframes are actually inhibiting effective collection, as enforcement action cannot be taken until 84 days after the infringement is issued.

"It will also look at whether better co-ordination between prosecuting authorities can prevent situations where people accumulate more infringements than they can pay, by intervening earlier.

"There are also perverse incentives in the current system that return to local authorities only 50 percent of the fines money they collect themselves, while paying them 90 percent of fines they refer to the court for collection.

"Recent cases of offenders having significant unpaid fines remitted by the courts suggest the system is not working as it should. While judges can substitute fines with community work where the offender is unable to pay, simply remitting fines risks undermining public confidence in the integrity of the system.

"The review will also consider whether all aspects of the system still serve the purposes for which infringement notices were first introduced - to encourage people to comply with legislation, and to punish and deter low-level offending in a way that is most efficient for the regulatory agency, the courts and the offender.

"I am confident that the review will lead to a simple, streamlined system that will see more fines being paid on time, and more overdue fines being collected," Mr Barker said.

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