Home' South Gippsland Sentinel-Times : April 11, 2017 Edition Contents THE SOUTH GIPPSLAND SENTINEL-TIMES, TUESDAY, APRIL 11, 2017 - PAGE 3
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THE system of fines and legal costs surround-
ing penalty notices, principally for unpaid City-
Link or Eastlink tolls, is clogging the courts,
costing us the taxpayer millions and crushing
thousands of Victorians, many of them from
the most disadvantaged groups within the com-
Drug abuse or mental health conditions are
Hardly a day goes by, at the Korumburra
Magistrates’ Court, that there aren’t a number
of people seeking relief from the resulting fi-
Last Thursday was no different.
Two people, making applications to the
court for help, one facing fines and on-costs of
$32,000 and the other of $11,500, are typical
of those caught by the downward debt spiral
However before their applications could go
ahead last Thursday, the legal representative
for the pair, Meaghan Crouch of David Lus-
combe and Associates, asked for an adjourn-
ment while psychiatrists’ reports and legal aid
could be sought to support their applications.
Failure to pay Citylink or Eastlink tolls, of-
ten starting out at as little as $9 per trip for
the original toll, were a feature of both applica-
Once Civic Compliance Victoria takes over re-
covering these outstanding amounts, the small
toll fees escalate into charges of $300-plus and
the situation starts to get out of hand.
There were several other applications for re-
lief listed last week.
Recently there was an application from some-
one with more than $100,000 in associated
fines and legal costs. Again toll warrants were
Quite apart from what it is costing the state
in Justice Department processing expenses
alone, which can include enforcement of war-
rants by Sheriff ’s Office representatives at the
homes of those involved, and even the seizure
of their property; it is draining scarce Legal Aid
reserves and State funds for the cost of medical
reports required by the courts.
Ultimately the taxpayer forks out for these.
Ms Crouch said it could cost $600 for a psy-
chiatrist’s or psychologist’s report and, if ap-
proved, Legal Aid funding amounted to $800.
It’s an impost which is being repeated thou-
sands of times-a-week across the state’s courts.
Magistrate wiped fines
The situation became farcical in the Korum-
burra Magistrates’ Court last week, prompting
Magistrate Simon Garnett to declare that the
system was out of control.
Sherrif ’s Office figures obtained by Fairfax
Media last year revealed that outstanding toll
warrants amounted to almost $687 million in
2014/15, a 15 per cent increase on the previ-
It has exploded by 80 per cent since 2012 and
is estimated to have exceeded $800 million in
What prompted the exasperated outburst by
Mr Garnett was the application being made to
the courts by Matthew Matthews of Phillip Is-
According to Mr Matthew’s legal representa-
tive, Louis R Marcou, his client knew nothing
about the escalating cost of his partner’s toll
fines until the Post Office realised that notices
being incorrectly sent to ‘Ocean Road’ should
have been going to ‘Ocean Reach’, an address at
By then, according to Mr Marcou, eight unpaid
Eastlink tolls, had become costs of $313.90,
$317.90, $258 etc for a total of $2463.40.
He said his client had tried to sort out the
mess but to no avail.
“Mr Matthews was not the driver of the car
and he filed the forms to that effect. His partner
was the driver and she filed an affidavit to say it
was her and that the infringement notices were
sent to the wrong address.”
Mr Marcou explained to the court that a seri-
ous family issue had prompted the man’s part-
ner to use Eastlink without an eTag.
“She’s willing to plead guilty, she used the
road but she never intended to defraud the
company. These people didn’t send the notices
to the right address.
“She expected to get a cost, say $20 for each
trip but not $313 a pop,” Mr Marcou said.
“It’s up to you, your honour to decide what to
do,” Mr Marcou said, noting that the family had
offered to pay $1000.
“It’s bureaucracy gone crazy this toll system,”
Magistrate Garnett said.
“You’ve tried all sorts of things to sort it out
but to no avail.
“I presume it would have cost money for legal
representation?” he asked.
Mr Marcou agreed that it would.
Mr Garnett granted the application to appeal
against the revocation refusal and dismissed all
tolls fees and the fines associated with them.
Afterwards, when leaving court, Mr Matthews
said he was greatly relieved by the decision but
regretted that it needed a court appearance to
sort it out.
“I guess I’ll be mowing Louis’ lawns for a fair
while to pay for it,” he said in reference to fel-
low Islander, his lawyer, Mr Marcou.
Phillip Island resident Matthew Matthews was delighted with the efforts of Island-based
lawyer, Louis Marcou, to sort out a toll fine issue, not of his making, but it still leaves the
courts clogged with thousands of Victorians facing huge toll fine debts. M101517
Late toll trauma
THE State Government has acknowledged
the problems in the fines enforcement sys-
tem and claims to be doing something about
Seeing a reduction in the number of people
forced into the court system will be one mea-
sure of its success in tackling the problem.
Here’s what Attorney-General Martin Paku-
la had to say in answer to questions from the
"The Andrews Labor Government is over-
hauling the state's infringement system to
make it easier and simpler for Victorians to
manage their fines.
"The Fines Reform Act includes a number
of measures which will make the system fair-
er and more equitable for the most vulnera-
ble and disadvantaged people, such as those
with a mental health disorder or intellectual
disability, or people experiencing homeless-
ness or drug addiction.
"These measures include payment plans or
community service where an eligible person
is in acute financial hardship and cannot pay
off their debt.
"We’re also working to reduce the pressure
on the court system with a call centre to re-
mind people to deal with their unpaid fines
before things escalate,” Mr Pakula said.
The Fines Reform Act 2014, to be rolled out
later this year, establishes a new fines model
to make it easier and simpler for people to
manage their fines.
Under the Act, responsibility for the en-
forcement of infringement and court fines will
shift to the Director of a new administrative
body – Fines Victoria.
Fines Victoria will provide a one - stop - shop
point of contact for the public to pay or deal
with their unpaid fines. It will also provide
an opportunity for people to consolidate their
fines into one payment arrangement.
This legislation also includes the Work and
Development Permit scheme which will pro -
vide vulnerable people with more options to
address their fine debt.
The scheme will be available to people
who are experiencing acute financial hard-
ship, a mental health disorder or intellectual
disability, addiction to drugs or alcohol, or
homelessness. It will allow eligible people
to reduce their fine debt by undertaking op-
tions, including volunteer work; educational,
vocational and life skills courses; medical
and mental health treatment; counselling
The WDP scheme will be an important op-
tion to assist vulnerable people to address
their fine debt while also undertaking activi-
ties and engaging with services that may help
to address their underlying circumstances.
In July 2016, the Department of Justice
and Regulation launched a new state-wide
call centre initiative aimed at helping people
manage and pay their fines early to avoid
added fees and penalties.
The call centre works by contacting people
who have passed the first due date on their
infringement notice as a reminder, helping
thousands of Victorians to manage their
As of February 2017, the call centre had
contacted more than 36,000 people and as-
sisted almost 22,000 matters into payment
plans valued at $4.2 million.
‘We’re changing it’, says Attorney-General
IT HAS been good to see popular Loch police-
man, Senior Constable Gary Slink, back on his
feet again, around the local district lately.
The victim of a nasty accident on the South
Gippsland Highway near Loch on Saturday,
March 11, Gary sustained leg/ankle injuries
and extensive bruising in the accident and is
still on sick leave from work.
But he’s been up and about lately and couldn’t
be more pleased with the support he’s received
from his colleagues in the force and also from
the general community.
“Even people I don’t know personally have
stopped me in the street and said they’re
pleased to see I’m OK,” said Gary this week.
“It’s been terrific really and I’d just like to say
a big ‘thank you’ to everyone for their support.”
Gary is still experiencing the effects of the ac-
cident but he hopes to get back to work as soon
Gary Slink says ‘thanks’
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“It’s bureaucracy gone crazy,” says Korumburra Magistrate
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