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Fines and the Family Violence Scheme (Vic)

The Family Violence Scheme is a specialised scheme that was introduced for the purpose of assisting Victorians who incur fines as a result of being subjected to family violence. Under the scheme, fines can be waived where family violence substantially contributed to the offence that attracted the fine.

The Family Violence Scheme enables victims of family violence to apply to Fines Victoria to have their fines withdrawn if the fines were incurred because of acts of family violence which posed an immediate threat to the victim or it was not safe for the victim to nominate the person responsible for the fines incurred. Fines Victoria is an administrative body introduced as part of the Fines Reform Act 2014 which provides service for members of the public who have been issued with fines.

What is family violence?

The Family Violence Protection Act 2008 defines family violence as behaviour by a family member towards another family member that:

  • is physically or sexually abusive;
  • is emotionally or psychologically abusive;
  • is economically abusive; and
  • is threatening or coercive.

Examples of where family violence might have contributed substantially to an infringement offence could include:

  • where a victim of family violence receives a speeding fine when the perpetrator of family violence has taken the victim’s car without permission and incurs a speeding fine and the victim fails to nominate the driver out of fear of retaliation; or
  • where a victim got a speeding fine while escaping from an immediately dangerous situation.

What do you have to show?

The victim of family violence will need to provide evidence to support their application.  Fines Victoria will consider each application based on the evidence provided. An example of evidence provided to Fines Victoria is an Intervention Order which has been issued by the court to protect the victim from the perpetrator.

Privacy and the Family Violence Scheme

The information disclosed to Fines Victoria remains confidential in accordance with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and their information will under no circumstances be shared with the perpetrator of the family violence.

However, if the applicant is at serious risk of harm, Fines Victoria may exercise discretion to provide the applicant’s information to the police. They will attempt to do this with the consent of the applicant but in a serious case, it may occur without the applicant’s consent.

Fines eligible for revocation

The scheme excludes some types of fines from being withdrawn. These include:

  • Fines issued by a court;
  • Fines incurred by companies;
  • Fines for offences against local council laws;
  • Fines issued for offences that pose a high-level risk to public safety such as drink-driving.

Time limit

A person can apply to the Family Violence Scheme at any time between receiving a fine until:

  1. The fine has been paid; or
  2. A seven-day notice has been served and has passed; or
  3. Enforcement action begins, meaning an attachment of earnings direction or an attachment of debts direction has been made, a land charge has been registered, or property has been seized in accordance with vehicle seizure and sale notice.

Issues with the Family Violence Scheme

Family violence is a terrible reality of our society. The Family Violence Scheme provides an opportunity for victims of family violence to have their circumstances recognised and not be held responsible for offences that arose out of situations of abuse.

In many cases, victims suffer years of abuse at the hands of their perpetrators and struggle to seek help or remove themselves from the situation. The Family Violence Scheme is one way of ensuring that victims are not punished for the actions of their abusers. However, a significant number of victims of family violence fail to seek help or report the violence to police. This can make it difficult to prove that family violence substantially contributed to an offence. Furthermore, a lot of victims are not aware of the Family Violence Scheme and fail to make an application to Fines Victoria.

If you require legal advice in relation to an infringement matter or in relation to any other legal matter please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

By Violet Lazari, Solicitor

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