- Work and Development Permit Scheme takes pressure off people in hardship
- Participants can cut or clear court fines through work or self-improvement
- Program is part of historic revamp of fine enforcement regime
A State Government initiative is helping vulnerable and disadvantaged people resolve unpaid court fines by undertaking work, training or treatment.
More than 130 people and dozens of sponsors at 140 locations across WA have signed up for the Work and Development Permit Scheme, since it began operating seven months ago.
The Scheme was part of a historic law reform package passed by the McGowan Government in June 2020 overhauling Western Australia's fines enforcement regime.
The Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Amendment Bill 2019 ensured imprisonment for non-payment of fines could only be ordered by a Magistrate as a sanction of last resort.
This was a key recommendation from the Coronial Inquiry into the death of Ms Dhu, who was taken into custody on a warrant of commitment for unpaid fines in 2014.
Under the Act, Work and Development Permits became an option for debtors experiencing hardship affecting their ability to pay their court fines.
This Scheme is being delivered by the Department of Justice in partnership with Legal Aid WA and the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALSWA).
Any person eligible for the Scheme can reduce or clear the court fines owed by completing specified activities or treatment programs under the supervision of an approved sponsor.
These include unpaid work; medical or mental health treatment; educational, vocational or personal development courses; treatment for alcohol or drug use problems; or mentoring (for under 25s).
Aside from experiencing financial hardship, people may be eligible if subjected or exposed to family violence, have a mental illness or disability, are homeless or experiencing alcohol and drug use problems.
For more information, visit https://www.wa.gov.au/organisation/department-of-justice/work-and-development-permit-scheme
Comments attributed to Attorney General John Quigley:
"Under the previous regime for the State, there have been cases where people experiencing genuine hardship who could not pay a fine, have been wrongly imprisoned.
"It is far better for the individual and for society, in this situation, to be able to do something constructive to work off their debt, rather than being imprisoned at a great cost to the taxpayer.
"I am pleased eligible people have taken the opportunity to not only wipe the slate clean on unpaid court fines but get a fresh start in their lives."
Comments attributed to Director of Legal Aid WA Dr Graham Hill:
"What separates this from typical community service is the focus on improving long-term outcomes for clients beyond paying off a debt, although for some of our clients, that in itself is a huge reward for effort.
"In the past where our clients felt overwhelmed, this Scheme gives them a much more manageable solution and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Comments attributed to ALSWA CEO Adjunct Professor Dennis Eggington:
"Aboriginal people have been disproportionately and adversely affected by the fines system in the past.
"The WDP Scheme provides an alternative way for disadvantaged Aboriginal people in hardship to reduce or clear their court fine debt, while working with services aimed at providing help and support."
Attorney General's office - 6552 6800