COVID-19 Restrictions (as of July 13, 2021)
Restrictions on movement for people in Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong have been extended until 11:59pm on Friday, July 16 following the Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Order 2021 (and its amendments) under the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW) section 7. This lockdown applies to anyone who lives in, usually works in or usually attends a university or tertiary educational facility within this region. There are only a limited number of exceptions to this Health Order which enforces the lockdown, such as requiring a reasonable excuse of one of the following:
- Essential work or education where that is not possible from home;
- Continuing existing parenting arrangements or accessing childcare;
- Outdoor exercise in groups of up to 2 people;
- Medical care or compassionate reasons; or
- Shopping for essential goods or accessing essential services.
There are harsh penalties for breaching this Health Order and its restrictions (such as indoor mask wearing). Police can issue to an individual a $1,000 on-the-spot COVID-19 related fine for breaching the Health Orders and a Court can fine an individual up to $11,000 or order them to six months imprisonment, or both.
If you are issued with an on-the-spot COVID-19 related fine (or penalty notice), you can either:
- Pay the fine,
- Ask for a review of the fine, or
- Appeal the fine in court.
1. Paying the COVID-19 related fine
Once you have been issued a fine for breaching the COVID-19 Health Orders, you can pay the fine in its entirety or organise to make instalment payments with Revenue NSW. If you do not pay the issued fine, Revenue NSW may suspend your driver’s licence, cancel your car registration, charge you extra fees, or take money from your wages or bank account to pay it.
From the time the Penalty Notice is received, you have 21 days to pay the fine. If it is not paid, you will be issued a Penalty Reminder Notice, providing you with another 28 days to pay the fine. Following the additional 28 days, you will get an Overdue Fine Notice. If this is not complied with, you may be issued an Enforcement Order. Individuals are provided with ample notices regarding the payment of fines, and therefore, you should consider to have the fine reviewed or appealed instead of enabling the amount of the fine to accumulate.
2. Challenge the COVID-19 related fine by asking for a review
If you instead wish to challenge the fine, you may ask for a review through Revenue NSW’s myPenalty portal. You must be able to identify reasonable grounds in order to seek a review of the penalty. This includes if you believe the fine was wrongly issued as you had a reasonable excuse, or if there are relevant exceptional circumstances such as the following:
- Affected by mental illness;
- Affected by disability;
- Are under 18 years of age;
- Homeless; or
- Suffering financial hardship.
Supporting documentation, such as medical documentation or statements demonstrating the receipt of financial support, should be provided to assist your case in the review.
You can challenge the fine by asking for a review before or after paying the fine. The review must be sought by the due date on the Penalty Reminder Notice if the fine has not been paid. If the fine has been paid, the review must be sought within 60 days of the original Penalty Notice being issued.
3. Challenge the COVID-19 related fine by appealing in court
Alternatively, you may wish to challenge the fine by appealing it in your Local Court. You can apply to do so through Revenue NSW’s myPenalty portal. You can appeal the fine if, because of any of the abovementioned grounds, you do not believe you disobeyed the Health Orders, you think the penalty for your conduct was too harsh, or you want the court to consider your special circumstances. If you have not paid the fine (whether or not you have attempted to review the decision), you must apply to appeal it by the due date on the Penalty Reminder Notice. If you have paid the fine before receiving a Penalty Reminder Notice, you must apply to appeal it within 90 days of being issued the penalty notice. If you have paid and attempted to review the decision, you must apply to challenge the fine in court within 28 days of being informed of the outcome of the review.
However, there are numerous risks of challenging the COVID-19 related fine by appealing in court. If you are found guilty of breaching the Health Orders, you may be given a larger fine than you originally had. You may also have to pay a court costs levy or the legal costs of the prosecutor. You also risk being convicted of an offence which would be added to your permanent criminal record. Due to the nature of these risks, we encourage you to seek legal advice from one of our experienced solicitors before disputing the fine in Court.
How Etheringtons Solicitors can help
A solicitor at Etheringtons Solicitors can provide you clarification of the relevant law and its relation to your individual circumstances. Furthermore, Etheringtons Solicitors can assist with challenging the fine by preparing for the review or court appeal. If you require further advice or assistance, please contact one of our experienced solicitors on (02) 9963 9800 or via our contact form.