Single mum pursued in court over COVID fine despite friends’ penalties being dropped

New South Wales Police patrol Bondi Beach in August 2021.

New South Wales Police patrol Bondi Beach in August 2021.Credit: Steven Siewert

In August 2021, Fuller appeared in an internal video leaked to the heraldin which he said that the police “would only achieve compliance if you start writing tickets”.

“I realize there is a lot to consider when it comes to health ordinances, but I’m asking you to put local policing aside for a little while,” Fuller said. “I’ve said it before, if you file a ticket and do something wrong, I understand and I won’t hold you accountable.”

The Redfern Legal Center brought a test case to the NSW High Court last year that resulted in half of all COVID fines imposed during the pandemic being voided. However, some of the invalid fines are still being pursued in court.

Elisabeth said she was fined after the police officer told her: “We’ve been told to stop issuing warnings and we have to fine people.”

“I remember being like, ‘Well, what was I fined for, what’s the fine?’ He said, ‘I can’t tell you that because they keep changing the rules.'”

Camilla Pandolfini, chief executive of the Redfern Legal Centre, said New South Wales Police had “abandoned their reasonable legitimate discretion and instead imposed more fines”.

She said many people who received fines weren’t actually violating public health codes, and she hoped lessons from the pandemic would improve policies, procedures and laws.

Jonathon Hunyor, chief executive of PIAC, said police had “opted for a punitive approach at a time when communities were struggling” and his organization had asked LECC to “closely examine unreasonable and repressive tactics”.

“The former commissioner urged officers to put community police aside during what is arguably the most difficult time of the pandemic,” he said.

“Not only did this damage community trust and resilience, but we also fear it was unlawful and amounted to malpractice or maladministration.”

New South Wales Police have been contacted for comment. A spokesman said inquiries should be directed to LECC.

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Justin Scaccy

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