By Michael Giles

THE State Government and the justice system has got a real problem with toll evasion.
The courts are also constantly clogged with people who have fallen afoul of the fines compliance system for one reason or another and find themselves deep in debt, often being chased by the Sherriff, and living in misery and fear until the matters can be sorted out.
It needs a comprehensive response by government.
But the piecemeal approach taken by the Attorney-General Martin Pakula last week will send completely the wrong message.
“Victim survivors of family violence will no longer be unfairly liable for fines incurred by perpetrators, under a new scheme introduced into Parliament by the Andrews Labor Government,” Mr Pakula said last week.
In other words, if one of the estranged partners uses the other person’s car to drive up and down through Citylink without a pass, or leaves it parked in the wrong places etc, the victim of the family violence doesn’t have to pay.
Fair enough but surely if that could be proved, the courts, the government or the fines compliance company would already have allowed that.
But the legislation goes beyond that
“The scheme will be available to victim survivors who unfairly incur fines as the result of a perpetrator using their vehicle. It will also be available to victim survivors who incur fines as a result of their own offending that was substantially contributed to by their experience of family violence – such as fleeing unsafe circumstances,” said the government media release.
“Currently, in order to apply to have their fines revoked, victim survivors are required to wrongly admit to committing the offence, or to nominate the driver which can place them at risk. The new scheme will allow eligible applicants to have the relevant fines withdrawn without naming the perpetrator, ensuring the debts do not contribute to the cycle of violence.
“The scheme will be administered by specialist trained staff, with applicants providing evidence including a statutory declaration, and other evidence such as a family violence intervention order or a family violence safety notice, to show that the infringement occurred in the circumstances of family violence.
“Serious road safety offences will not be eligible for the family violence scheme because of the high risk they pose to public safety, including drink driving, drug driving and excessive speed.
“In addition to the family violence reforms, the new laws introduced today will enable the courts to refer court orders in relation to unpaid infringement fines and court fines to the Director of Fines Victoria for collection or enforcement.”
It’s commendable that the State Government is trying to get this problematic issue out of the courts but you can’t be sending a message to people that it’s alright to break the law if you’re in a family violence situation.
There is a massive amount of money being made by the firms collecting tolls and also by government and local government collecting fines. They should be made to pay for the cost of doing business themselves, if necessary paying to set up a separate justice system to deal with non-compliance, even justifiable non-compliance.
But it’s a slippery slope when you start saying it’s OK to commit an offence in any circumstances.