The rise of criminal infringement notices: a cause for concern?

Elyse Methven1
1University Of Technology Sydney, Haymarket, Australia

In the previous two decades, governments and police organisations in many Australian jurisdictions have expressed a willingness to accelerate the use of on the spot fines, and have them available for an expanding number of criminal offences. On the spot fines (also referred to as criminal infringement notices  or ‘CINs’ in NSW, CCINs in WA, expiation notices in SA, and more generally, penalty notices) are notices to the effect that, if the person served does not elect to have the matter determined by a court (court-elect), they must pay the amount prescribed for the offence within a fixed time period. A once unconventional sanction limited to traffic and parking breaches, CINs are now a familiar component of the criminal justice system, particularly in the policing of public order CINs in Australia. The author examines key concerns about CINs, including their disproportionate impact on Indigenous and vulnerable Australians;  their imposition of a uniform penalty regardless of the culpability of the offender or their ability to pay the fine; the unusual character of these sanctions, which is neither completely civil or criminal; and the lack of judicial (or any adequate) oversight of the use of CINs by police. The author also reports on preliminary findings from her early career research project on the use of CINs, police discretion, and their impact on Indigenous and/or vulnerable people.

Dr Elyse Methven is a Lecturer in law at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). She recently completed her PhD on offensive language crimes and the relationship between law and language. Elyse is currently undertaking an early career research project on police discretion and the use of on the spot fines for disorderly conduct. Elyse also researches the intersection between criminal law and immigration powers.


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