Australia Broken fines system holding back millions in revenue

16:35  11 july  2018
16:35  11 july  2018 Source:   9news.com.au

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9NEWS has learned Victoria's court fines system has broken down. It is allowing offenders to go unpunished, and is holding back tens of millions of dollars in revenue to the state government.

The cause is a software glitch which has yet to be fixed.

Fines Victoria took over collection of court-ordered fines at the start of this year. Prior to that, the courts themselves would send out fines – usually within a few days of a matter being heard.

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A broken fines system has seen tens of millions in revenue withheld from the state government. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd A broken fines system has seen tens of millions in revenue withheld from the state government.

The majority of court fines are for offences behind the wheel such as unlicensed driving, dangerous driving and careless driving.

In addition, about a quarter of all these offences are also punished with a fine: theft, assault, contravening a family violence intervention order.

Based on recent figures, Victoria's courts would so far this year have have handed out around $60 million in fines.

Those inside the legal system say the process has come to a halt. Lawyers say in some courts no fine notices have been issued at all this year.

a coin on a table: Fines Victoria's software has glitched, meaning the fines are not being issued. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Fines Victoria's software has glitched, meaning the fines are not being issued.

The fault is not that of the courts; they are sending the required information on penalties to Fines Victoria.

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But there it stops. UK-imported software is not working as designed, and various updates have yet to fix the issue so the fines are not being sent on to offenders.

"The establishment of Fines Victoria as a single, central point of contact for outstanding fines is a complex task that has involved consolidating more than 21 million files to a new system," Fines Victoria said.

"There are currently some payment methods that have been affected by the transition to the new system and we are working to fix these as a matter of priority."

The result is that thousands of people have not received penalty notices. And there is no information on when they will.

One lawyer told 9NEWS fines are now "effectively no punishment at all."

Recent figures suggest courts would so far in 2018 have handed out about $60 million in fines. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Recent figures suggest courts would so far in 2018 have handed out about $60 million in fines.

Legal aid lawyers say they have noticed a significant drop in the number of people seeking help in paying fines.

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And there is a lot less for the Sherriffs to do, as they cannot chase up late-payers who have not received a fine in the first place.

That will change when the computer issue in Fines Victoria is eventually fixed and months of fines are sent out. Lawyers expect the court system to be overloaded as a result.

"The Department of Justice and Regulation is working to clear this backlog as soon as possible," Victoria Attorney-General Martin Pakula said.

"The Department is making more payment options available, boosting resources to improve customer service and working with the courts to improve communication with those affected.                              

"The Department is also working with the IT provider to reduce and resolve the delays."


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