Legitimacy of Covid-19 fines challenged in New South Wales Supreme Court

Thousands of fines issued during Covid-19 lockdowns could be dismissed after the NSW Government conceded at least two penalty notices were invalid.

The landmark case is being heard in the New South Wales Supreme Court on Tuesday, where three Sydneysiders plan to challenge the penalty notices issued for Covid-related public health orders.

The three plaintiffs, Rohan Pank, Brenden Beame and Teal Els, were each fined between $1000 and $3000 after they allegedly breached public health orders in 2021.

Redfern Legal Centre brought the case on behalf of the trio against the NSW Police Commissioner and the Commissioner of Fines Administration.

It was argued that the fines were not valid because the penalty notices do not provide enough detail of the alleged offence, as required under the Act.

The court heard on Tuesday the Commissioner of Fines Administration accepted that Mr Beame and Ms Els’ fines did not sufficiently state or describe the offence, so did not meet the requirements of section 20 of the Fines Act.

The court will now decide whether the fines should be refunded or not.

Mr Pank’s fine had already been withdrawn Revenue NSW on the day the case was lodged and his costs will be covered by the government.

Camera IconThe New South Wales Supreme Court will hear a case against the lawfulness of the public health penalty notices issued in 2021. NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi Credit: News Corp Australia

Samantha Lee, acting principal solicitor at Redfern Legal Centre, said the case is about more than just two peoples’ fines.

“It is about the need to properly adhere to the rule of law, even during a pandemic,” the instructing solicitor said,

“This Supreme Court challenge could have broad implications for all fines issued pursuant to the public health orders during the pandemic, in particular those that did not clearly refer to the relevant offence on the penalty notice.”

More to come.

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