The New South Wales (NSW) government is returning millions of dollars in fines to thousands of residents breaching COVID-19 restrictions introduced during the Australian state's lockdown periods.
The judge then ordered the state government to give refunds to the plaintiffs.
Following the court's decision, Revenue NSW Fines Commissioner Scott Johnson said the fines would be withdrawn.
However, Revenue NSW noted the fines' withdrawal did not dismiss the fact that people failed to comply with the noticed direction concerning section 7/8/9–COVID-19 during the pandemic.
The agency also said the remaining 29,017 COVID-19 fines were not affected by the supreme court's decision and would still be required to be paid if not already resolved.
What the Lawsuit Is About?The Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) brought the lawsuit on behalf of Brenden Beame, Teal Els and Rohan Pank, who were fined between $1,000 (US$669) and $3,000 for breaching COVID-19 rules.
The police officers then told him he had violated a public health order by not actively exercising at the park and issued him with a $1,000 fine.
"It was a warm day. Lots of people were there," Pank said. "We knew that sitting in parks, outdoor recreation, was one of the few things that were allowed."
"A group of police officers came over and fined us for supposedly not currently exercising."
After his review application for the fine was rejected twice by Revenue NSW, Pank sought legal assistance from RLC, bringing his case to the supreme court and two others who had been fined for COVID breaches.
Following the court's decision, RLC acting principal solicitor Samantha Lee said justice had been granted to the plaintiffs.
"Thank goodness for pro bono barristers and for clients who have come forward and taken the risk."
Speaking to Nine Network, she said the remaining over 29,000 fines could potentially be withdrawn but noted that this must wait until the court's final judgment came out in 2023.
In addition, she said people in other states could follow suit and take legal action against their governments over COVID-19-related fines.
Legal Community's ResponseKarly Warner, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service, welcomed the supreme court's decision and called for the cancellation of the remaining COVID-19 fines.
"How many more people does it plan to put through this ordeal before accepting that all COVID fines must be cancelled?"
She added that the Aboriginal community was unfairly targeted by the fines and still suffered the consequences, although the pandemic had passed.
The organisation also noted that many of the state's top locations for COVID-19-related fines had high concentrations of Aboriginal people with the highest level of social disadvantage.