NSW Police Dished Out Over $2 Million Worth Of COVID Fines To Literal Children
Some of the individual fines were up to $5000.
NSW Police have handed out more than $2 million worth of fines under public health orders to children since mid-2020, for reportedly minor breaches of COVID rules.
Data shared by The Guardian, obtained under freedom of information laws, showed that nearly 3000 children aged 10-17 were slapped with fines of up to $5000 since mid-2020. Among the top penalty notices were not complying with police orders, not wearing a face mask, and disobeying curfews during lockdown in areas of concern.
“These fines are enormous,” said Redfern Legal Centre’s police accountability solicitor Samantha Lee to the outlet, calling it “absurd to think we should issue such a fine to a child — there’s no way they can pay”.
Of particular concern was the impact of these fines on disadvantaged families, and the unwillingness of officers to exercise discretion by giving cautions instead.
The NSW Police Force has come under fire for their arbitrary use of strengthened powers during the pandemic. In September, officers fined two siblings with intellectual disabilities for not understanding COVID restrictions in regional NSW.
Similarly, an analysis of suburbs where penalty infringement notices were being issued against where the state’s hotspots actually were, showed a disproportionate number of fines in highly multicultural areas.
“It’s not an equal playing field out there. Not all of us have a five-bedroom house with a pool in the back,” said Lee. “Kids I’ve seen are just doing things kids do. They’re out playing or wanting to get out of the house. It’s been a very trying time for everyone.”