Extra help – young people and First Nations people

Fined Out factsheet 6

Young people and fines

Many young people are vulnerable to receiving fines, particularly fines that come from being in public places, on public transport or from interactions with public authorities.

Fines can have a significant and disproportionate effect on young people because they are less likely to have the financial capacity to pay the fines, and often have less capacity to understand and appreciate the consequences of not paying their fines.

Fines cannot be issued to children under the age of 10. Your options as a young person under the age of 18 to deal with your fines are the same as those outlined in other Parts of this booklet.

Plus you have the additional option if you are under 25 years and eligible, to undertake a mentoring program as part of a Work and Development Order (WDO).

If you get a fine and you want to fight it, or you can’t afford to pay it, contact Revenue NSW or get legal advice straight away. 

If you are under 18 and get a fine, there are a few differences in how Revenue NSW can enforce the fine when it isn’t paid on time. These are:

  • Once an overdue fine is issued, Revenue NSW imposes an enforcement cost of $25 (it’s $65 for adults)
  • If all the fines were issued when you were under the age of 18, Revenue NSW must waive all additional enforcement costs that are charged with each further enforcement action (like the $40 cost to Transport for NSW for suspending your licence)
  • Transport for NSW cannot take any action on your driving or rider’s licence for non-traffic fines that you got when you were under 18.

It is important to note that even where there are Transport for NSW suspensions in force, Service NSW cannot refuse to issue you a Photo Card.

If you choose to deal with your fine by electing to go to court, then the matter will be heard at the Children’s Court. This will only happen if you were under the age of 18 at the time of the offence and if you are still under 21.

Exception – traffic offences

Where the fine was a traffic offence, like a speed camera offence and you were old enough to have a licence at the time of the offence (16 years old for cars and 16 years and nine months for motorbikes), the matter will be heard at the Local Court.

What can the Children’s Court do?

The Children’s Court has to take some factors into consideration when it sentences you, with a particular focus on rehabilitation. This means giving people skills and knowledge so they have a better chance of not offending again and diverting young people away from the court system.

When you elect to go to court, the fines become like a charge and the Children’s Court can then use all the options available to it to sentence you. Some options the Children’s Court can use instead of imposing a fine include:

  • dealing with the matter by way of a caution or referring the matter to a youth justice conference as per the Young Offenders Act 1997 (NSW), or
  • dismissing the matter by way of a caution as per the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 (NSW).

If the Children’s Court is considering imposing a fine as a penalty to a young person, they must take into account whether the young person can pay the fine. If the Children’s Court is intending on imposing a fine, then the fine can’t be more than 10 penalty units ($1,100) for one offence.

When giving a fine the Children’s Court Magistrate has the discretion to be able to waive court and victims support levy costs.

Alison’s story

Alison had been trying to get her life together, but sometimes it felt overwhelming. She recently turned 16 and had been living in a youth refuge for six months – things got so bad at home with her mum’s drinking, she just couldn’t stay there anymore. Alison’s use of drugs and alcohol had caused things to spin out of control even more and she spent time in a residential rehabilitation unit for three months before moving to her current placement.

Alison had given her case worker some paperwork, including a $225 Revenue NSW overdue fine notice from a fine that had been imposed by the Children’s Court for graffiti damage eight months before. The fine had been $200 and $25 had been added by Revenue NSW as enforcement costs.

Alison hadn’t been in court and the penalty had been imposed in her absence. She couldn’t remember getting any letters telling her about court. Things had been pretty chaotic, and she was in rehab when the summons was sent out.  $225 was a lot of money for Alison and thinking about it made her feel really anxious.

Jane, her lawyer, helped her make an annulment application to the Children’s Court on the basis that she didn’t know about her court matter and had been experiencing homelessness, the paperwork would have been sent to her old address. The court agreed to re-hear the matter and, taking into account her circumstances, her matter was dismissed, which meant she didn’t have to pay the fine or additional costs.

First Nations people and fines

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) people are vulnerable to receiving fines, particularly fines that come from being in public places, on public transport, driving in regional areas or from interactions with public authorities.

Fines can have a significant and disproportionate effect on First Nations people because they are less likely to have the financial capacity to pay the fines, and if they live in regional areas are more at risk of secondary offending due to licence suspensions from unpaid fines.

Revenue NSW is committed to providing a culturally safe service. When First Nations people contact Revenue NSW, they can request to speak to a Revenue NSW Support Officer who identifies as a First Nations person.

When you call, Revenue NSW staff will ask if you identify as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person and if you would prefer to speak with a First Nations support officer. You do not have to answer if you do not want to and you don’t have to be transferred to a First Nations officer if you choose not to.

You can also call the Revenue NSW First Nations Hotline directly on 1300 478 879. This hotline is answered by Revenue NSW staff who identify as First Nations people.

There are options you can speak to Revenue NSW about to help you pay your fines:

50% reduction

If you are on a Centrelink or Veterans benefit and a payment plan isn’t suitable and you aren’t eligible for a Work and Development Order you can ask Revenue NSW for a 50% reduction for some fines. These reductions apply only if you were on a Centrelink payment, have not had four or more similar fines within 12 months of the first offence date and the fine is not considered serious. 

Payment plan

If you need extra time to pay your fines, you can apply for a payment plan. If you are receiving a Centrelink or Veterans benefit, the payment can be taken out of your benefit each fortnight through Centrepay deductions.

Work and Development Order (WDO)

If you need additional help to pay your fines, you may be eligible for a Work and Development Order (WDO). A WDO can be arranged with community partners in your local area to help you do activities or treatment to clear your fine debt without having to pay any money. 

Call the Revenue NSW First Nations Hotline for more information about doing a WDO.

If you have a Transport for NSW licence suspension, registration cancellation or business restriction in place, you can ask Revenue NSW to lift these when you are completing a payment plan or WDO.

Write off of fines

If you are in severe financial hardship and do not have the capacity to pay your fines or complete a WDO, Revenue NSW may consider writing off the fines. You will need to supply supporting documents. To get help with a write off you can:

  • contact Revenue NSW First Nations Hotline for further information
  • call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 for free legal help
  • find information and an application form online

If you would like to take up one of the options above or if you just want some extra information about your fines and these options, contact Revenue NSW:

  • by phone on 1300 478 879
  • online

If you are not comfortable calling to speak with Revenue NSW, you can ask somebody else to contact us on your behalf. This could be a friend or relative, a support worker at your local neighbourhood centre or Aboriginal Legal Service or your doctor.

You can find more information online about how Revenue NSW can help you resolve your fines.

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