Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 25 March 2010) . . Page.. 1481 ..
deduction orders; property seizure and sale; voluntary community work orders; fine remission; and imprisonment as the absolute last resort.
I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate on the main aspects of the new fine enforcement scheme. When a person defaults on paying a court-imposed fine, the preliminary action that will be taken to encourage the payment of the fine will be to suspend the person’s drivers licence. If a person does not hold a drivers licence, they will be prevented from getting one. This process is already in place. A new addition to this stage of fine enforcement is that if a vehicle is registered in the name of the person, that vehicle’s registration may be suspended. Any suspensions will be lifted when the outstanding fine is paid in full.
In addition to licence and vehicle registration suspension, a person who defaults on a fine may have relevant details passed on to a credit provider. This will have a negative effect on the person’s credit rating and is an extra incentive to pay an outstanding fine before further action involving the courts is taken. If a fine remains unpaid after a person has had their licence and registration suspended and their details given to a credit provider, the next phase of the fine enforcement scheme will be initiated.
The bill authorises the Chief Executive of the Department of Justice and Community Safety, or a delegate, to serve an examination notice on a fine defaulter. An examination notice will require a fine defaulter to produce documents containing any relevant information needed for the chief executive to determine the fine defaulter’s financial position and capacity to pay a fine.
If a fine defaulter does not comply with an examination notice or provides false or misleading information, the chief executive may apply to the registrar of the Magistrates Court for a warrant to arrest the fine defaulter. If arrested under such a warrant, a fine defaulter will be brought before the registrar and examined under oath to ascertain the fine defaulter’s financial position and capacity to pay the fine.
The bill contains a number of fine enforcement orders that the Magistrates Court can make on application from the chief executive or a delegate. These orders are the main component of the new fine enforcement scheme. Before I outline the new orders I would like to reassure members that all orders have safeguards built into them. The most important safeguard is that the court must not make an order if such an order would be unfair or cause undue hardship.
The bill provides the option of an earnings redirection order. This would occur where a fine defaulter has some source of income that could be redirected to the court to discharge a fine. Under the bill, income is defined quite broadly and can include, for example, wages, an amount received under a contract for services or a social security benefit. Another safeguard built into this option is that an order must adhere to any income protection legislation. This is particularly relevant where social security or other such benefits are involved. If a person receives child maintenance, for example, that income could not be subject to a redirection order.
Another order available under the scheme proposed in the bill is a financial institution deduction order. This allows the court to order a financial institution to deduct money