Proposed New Fine System

Law lecturer Tomas Fitzgerald.
Law lecturer Tomas Fitzgerald.

A UNIVERSITY of Notre Dame professor believes the introduction of a new day fine system will stop low-income earners being imprisoned for not paying their fines.

Notre Dame senior law lecturer Tomas Fitzgerald said his research, which was published in this month’s issue of the Curtin Law and Taxation Review, argued WA’s current system was contributing to higher incarceration rates among those of low socio-economic status because of unpaid fines.

Currently, people who are fined have 28 days to pay it.

If not, they clear it by doing an equivalent amount of community service work through the work development order scheme.

Those who do neither could face a prison sentence.

Mr Fitzgerald said a new system, which would see a fine given based on the offender’s daily income, would be fairer and reduce jail time.

“When I started looking into the issue… it struck me that the core of the problem was that our fines system is regressive, that is, the lower your income the more impact a fine has,” he said. “A day fine system would be a big step toward fixing the inequality in our justice system that is driving these outcomes.

WA Attorney General Michael Mischin said before the current system was introduced 20 years ago, more than 7000 people went to jail every year for non-payment of fines.

Last year, that number was 603, in itself a drop from the 1127 imprisoned the year before.