A poorly-worded note is being blamed for the “frustrating” impression many Victorian coronavirus fines were to be dropped.
Victoria Police hierarchy is adamant there has been no shift on policy and unpaid fines will be pursued.
Victorian Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said on Jan. 18 many fines would not be enforced, adding it sent the wrong message and could make life harder for members trying to do their jobs.
The Age reported that police had been told to issue cautions for all but the most serious unpaid fines.
Police have issued about 40,000 fines for breaches of the chief health officer’s rules in Victoria during the pandemic.
“It’s a wee bit frustrating,” Gatt told 3AW.
“None of this was fun for our members. It was bit of a thankless job.
“What you potentially do is … you make that enforcement job of the police a little bit harder.
“We don’t want to do that. The job is tough enough for them.”
Premier Daniel Andrews then said it was up to Chief Commissioner Shane Patton to discuss how fines were being processed.
Later in the afternoon Assistant Commissioner Rick Nugent held a media conference to explain that the guidance note had created the concern among police about a softening of fines enforcement.
“A guide was prepared for prosecutors and police with respect to prosecuting (COVID) fines—in hindsight, that document was poorly worded and doesn’t appropriately articulate the process for fines and warnings,” Nugent said.
“There is no policy shift whatever in terms of our approach to those fines and the importance of those fines at the time.”
Of the 40,000 fines, Nugent said about 3000 had been paid, while another 5700 had accepted guilt and are on payment plans.
About 2400 have elected to take their fines to court.
Nugent said fines were issued for “blatant, deliberate” rule breaches and added police had also given more than 12,000 formal warnings.