The validity of over $56 million worth of COVID-19 related fines issued by the NSW Police could be challenged via a possible class action.
Redfern Legal Centre has so far filed three lawsuits in the NSW Supreme Court by individuals seeking to overturn what they claim were vague and unspecific infringement notices issued for alleged breaches of public health orders during lockdowns.
One of these lawsuits, brought by Sydney man Rohan Pank who was fined for sitting in a park with his partner in August 2021, has since been withdrawn with Revenue NSW cancelling the $1000 fine.
“For the majority of clients seen by (Redfern Legal Centre), we are of the view that they did not break the law, but that the law was applied incorrectly and the internal fine review system provided little to no recourse,” senior solicitor Samantha Lee said.
While the other two cases over a $1000 fine and a $3000 fine are still ongoing, Ms Lee told AAP that further lawsuits, including a class action, could be on the cards.
“We are not ruling anything out. We are looking at all possibilities to seek some form of justice for those who have received poorly worded, wrongly issued fines, particularly the more than 3000 children who were fined,” she said.
Ms Lee said there had been over 62,000 COVID-19 fines issued in NSW amounting to almost $56.5 million in total, the majority of which remained unpaid.
She argued that the penalty notices were invalid because they lacked sufficient details about the alleged offence.
“The information provided on the fine was often so vague that those who were fined did not know where to begin to seek a review of the fine,” she said.
The solicitor said that because most of these infringement notices were issued to those in lower socio-economic areas or First Nations communities, the impact of these penalties could be devastating with unpaid fines leading to serious financial outcomes.
In order to invalidate the tens of thousands of notices issued, the two remaining cases would need to result in a final court judgment. This will not occur if Revenue NSW simply decides to withdraw the fines and the lawsuits are dismissed.