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Part 1: Introduction

A fine is a financial penalty for breaking the law. The Fines Act 1996 (NSW) and the Fines Regulation 2010 (NSW) sets out the rules about fines.

You can view the Fines Act 1996 (NSW) and the Fines Regulation (NSW) 2010 online at
www.legislation.nsw.gov.au

1.1 Types of fines

There are three types of fines:

Court fines

Victims Restitution Orders

Penalty notices (sometimes referred to as infringement notices or on-the-spot fines).

Court fines

If you are found guilty of an offence in court, one of the things the court can do is give you a fine. In addition to a fine, courts may impose a victim’s support levy (VSL), court costs levy (CCL) and make an order that you pay witness expenses. These are treated as fines when enforced by Revenue NSW.

Victims Restitution Orders

Unlike criminal proceedings, a Victims Restitution Order (VRO) is a civil process where proceedings were commenced against you to recover an award for financial support or recognition payment paid to a victim of an act of violence that you were convicted of. As a result of these proceedings, a VRO is granted.

When you receive a letter from Victims Services about a Victims Restitution Order you have the option to set up a payment plan to pay off the debt with Revenue NSW. If you are eligible, you can then arrange a Work and Development Order to clear the fine and stop the payment plan.

If you don’t deal with your VRO, it is treated the same as a court fine when enforced by Revenue NSW.

To find out more about your options if you get a VRO, visit
www.victimsservices.justice.nsw.gov.au/Pages/vss/vs_recovering/vs_rest-definition.aspx

Penalty notices

Penalty notices can be issued for a lot of different offences, like fines for travelling on public transport without a ticket or concession card, fines for parking longer than permitted or in unauthorised zones, speeding, riding a bike without a helmet, driving an unregistered vehicle or without a current driver licence.

Penalty notices can be handed to you directly, left on the vehicle or sent by post or email. They must be given by an authorised officer such as a police officer or public transport ticket inspector.

There are separate sections in this book for penalty notices: [* see Part 2] and court fines [* see Part 3], because even though there are a lot of things that are the same for both, there are also some important differences – so you need to start off knowing which type of fine you’ve been given.

1.2 The Commissioner of Fines Administration (Revenue NSW)

The Commissioner of Fines Administration uses the name “Revenue NSW” in the administration of its functions under the Fines Act 1996. The role of Revenue NSW is to receive and process fines issued by various government agencies and authorities, and to make enforcement orders and take enforcement action against people who don’t pay their fines.

For the purposes of this resource we will refer to the agency which deals with fine recovery as Revenue NSW.

Note

Commonwealth, interstate and territory fines can also be enforced in NSW by Revenue NSW.

Did you know there are organisations that can help you sort your fines out?

These organisations are known as ‘advocates’ and Revenue NSW has a specialist Advocacy Support Team that helps these organisations help you!

The Revenue NSW team, and the advocates they support, work with clients such as:

  • People with a mental health impairment, cognitive impairment or intellectual disability
  • People who are homeless
  • People with a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or volatile substances
  • People with NSW Trustee and Guardian financial management orders
  • Prisoners and people recently released from custody
  • People in serious financial, medical or domestic hardship
  • Young people (under 18 years)
  • First Nations people

The Revenue NSW Advocacy Support Team works closely with advocates to ensure their clients are aware of, and have access to, all the options available to help them deal with their fines. They can help you organise a way to pay off your fines by instalments at an affordable rate, access a Work and Development Order or, depending on your circumstances, apply for the fines to be postponed, reduced or written off.

If you need help with fines, contact an advocate. Ask them if they are registered with the Revenue NSW priority advocacy hotline service.

If you are a community worker and would like to help your clients with fines debt, you can visit this Revenue NSW webpage.

Do they have to give me a fine? What is a caution?

The Department of Communities and Justice have guidelines under the Fines Act 1996 for authorised officers (except NSW Police). These guidelines mean the authorised officer, like a transit officer, may in certain circumstances issue a caution instead of a penalty notice. Circumstances that they can take into account include:

  • The offence involved no risk to public safety, damage to property or financial loss, or did not have a significant impact on other members of the public
  • The person is homeless
  • The person has a mental illness or intellectual disability
  • The person is a child (under 18)
  • The person has a special infirmity or is in very poor physical health
  • The offending behaviour is at the lower end of the seriousness scale for that offence
  • The person is co-operative and/or complies with a request to stop the offending conduct, and
  • It is otherwise reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case, to give the person a caution

Department of Communities and Justice caution guidelines