New data has revealed that areas in Western Sydney and regional NSW were issued with the most COVID breach related fines, amounting to tens of millions of dollars.
From July 2020 to October 2021, almost $45 million worth of fines were issued across NSW.
Since this period, the figure has risen to more than $55 million from the start of the pandemic.
In the data gathered from July 2020 – October 2021, Mount Druitt had the most fines issued, amounting to $1.3 million worth of fines.
Following this, Liverpool had more than $1.1 million worth of fines issued.
Despite Dubbo having a population of just over 50,000 people, $700,00 in fines were issued.
Despite these incredibly larges figures, Bondi in the city’s east, had $400,000 in fines issued.
The fines were provided for a range of COVID related breaches including failing to wear or carry a mask ($500) and for failing to self-isolate if directed, lying to contact tracers, or misusing evidence of being vaccinated when not ($5,000 for most offences).
The breakdown for suburbs across NSW between July 2020–October 2021 are as follows:
- Mount Druitt: $1,366,380
- Liverpool: $1,157,680
- Blacktown: $751,500
- Dubbo: $700,560
- Merrylands: $627,240
- Westmead: $593,660
- Green Valley: $584,780
- Bankstown: $584,680
- Guilford: $582,840
- Campbelltown: $552,720
- Cabramatta: $508,520
- Waterloo: $496,200
- Darlinghurst: $481,680
- St Marys: $461,840
- Kingswood: $434,460
- Auburn: $421,160
- Granville: $421,060
- Fairfield: $416,920
- Bondi: $409,640
- Sydney: $382,500
- Wagga Wagga: $361,240
- Wollongong: $359,780
- Punchbowl: $355,180
- Woolloomooloo: $354,000
- Gosford: $352,780
- Penrith: $351,720
- Parramatta: $328,860
- Greenacre: $316,600
- Wyong: $312,940
- Tamworth: $301,440
The recent data was uncovered due to the ABC issuing a Freedom of Information request to the state government.
Other recent data, published by the New South Wales Bureau of Crime and Statistics noted that most breaches related to failing to comply with Ministerial directions (68.8%), with 30% of the breaches related to failing to wear or carry a face covering.
The most common reason for a fine being issued, of the breaches related to Ministerial directions, was those who were found outside their LGA or permitted travel radius without a reasonable excuse (52%).
The Public Health Act 2010 (NSW) enables state officials, namely the Minister for Health and Medical Research, to make a make a range of enforceable directions and orders in relation to public health risks.
There have been multiple orders made throughout the pandemic, reflecting the easing and tightening of restrictions.
The current ‘general’ Public Health Order in effect is the Public Health (COVID-19 General) Order (No 2) 2021, which commenced 25 February 2022, as amended by the Public Health (COVID-19) Amendment Order 2022, Sch 2.
Paying fines issued under the Public Health Orders will not result in a criminal conviction being recorded against the offender.
The fine amounts attributed to each offence are outlined in Schedule 4 of the Public Health Regulation 2012.
Legal advocates, and those working at community legal centres, have noted that many of the fines are going unpaid.
Notably, 99% of unpaid COVID fines had been escalated to enforcement.
In NSW, Revenue NSW is the government department responsible for the recovery of fines issued by the state.
If you fail to make payment of a fine by its due date, further fees can be applied as Revenue NSW commence ‘enforcement’ action.
These fees can grow considerably over time if you continue to neglect paying the fine.
If you are struggling to make payment of a fine, it is important to promptly contact Revenue NSW as they can help address the issue by reviewing it, setting up a payment plan, or even writing it off if you’re facing serious financial, medical, or other problems.
Other enforcement actions that Revenue NSW can take include ‘garnishing’ your wages through asking your employer to deduct money from your wage and send it to the department.
Furthermore, they are able, in some cases, to seize belongings to sell at auction to cover payment of the fines.
Whilst, notably, penalty notices can be challenged in court, if found guilty, you may be convicted and face a maximum penalty of up to 6 months in prison and/or an $11,000 fine for failing to comply with a public health order, pursuant to section 10 of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).
In the case of a continuing offence, on top of this maximum penalty, a further $5,500 penalty may apply for each day the offence continues.Businesses or ‘corporations’ face a maximum penalty of $55,000, with a further $27,500 applicable for each day the offence continues.