Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (21:06): My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and the action I seek is for the government to immediately rescind the COVID fines for people under the age of 18. We have implemented one of the strictest policing responses to COVID in the world, but unfortunately our policing is often plagued by a lack of transparency, racial bias is not monitored and our fine review system is onerous and difficult to navigate even for lawyers. Many people cannot afford to pay the amounts that we ask, especially children. The calls for this come from an important paper by the Federation of Community Legal Centres, Financial Counselling Victoria and Victoria Legal Aid. Their paper Fairer Fines Outcome for Vulnerable Victorians During COVID-19 and the Recovery Phase gives the example of Sam. Sam, a 16-year-old refugee, experiences mental health issues and sees a trauma counsellor. Sam went for a walk with a friend and was approached by a third party, who started chatting to him. They were socially distancing. The police arrived and Sam tried to explain that he did not know this person, but the language barrier meant this was not clear to the police. They did not give Sam a warning or a direction to move on and instead took his details and sent him an infringement notice in the mail for failing to comply with the COVID-19 directions.
Less than 1000 people of the 19 000 who have been issued fines have paid them. I think it is obvious these fines are an inadequate justice instrument. We gain nothing from giving fines to children. Many children will graduate at 18 and will go straight into the justice system thanks to COVID. We cannot let that happen. So the action I seek is for the government to rescind all COVID-related fines for people under the age of 18.