09 May

State Penalties Enforcement Amendment Bill 2017

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Criminal Lawyer, Sam Rigby explains the introduction of the State Penalties Enforcement Amendment Bill 2017 into the Queensland Parliament

The SPER registry oversees and manages debts, amounting to $1.17 billion. The management of such debts has been scrutinised over the past few years in dealing with the structure of debts, dealing with people who are suffering financial hardship or disadvantage and when an infringement should be referred to SPER.

Like many of our clients who appear before the court, their penalties are often referred to SPER. These fines can range in expense and if Sentenced more than once, the amount of debt can add up quickly. The bill introduces other non-monetary methods to pay these debts.

People who are eligible, falling into certain categories such as those who suffer domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse or financial hardship have a variety of other options now. These options include and are not limited to unpaid community work, drugs and alcohol treatment and other forms of counselling.

The current system, for example, imposes fees for each debt referred to SPER and additional late fees making payment of their fine/s more difficult. The bill will introduce other systems which provide incentives for early payment, fees will now be applied to your SPER debt as a whole and it has included a better debt management process. The system, as it stands, is reliant on people having no more than two outstanding debts at a time. If you go beyond this, it becomes an uphill battle resulting in greater financial hardship. The bill introduces a system where SPER will review your debt as a whole rather than individually.

Day to day we are instructed by clients, who appear before the court in relation to driving offences, that they did not receive a letter from SPER informing of an outstanding account or issuing an infringement. People who rent or move residential addresses frequently face this problem more than most. The court abides by the ‘postal acceptance rule’ whereby if SPER have sent a letter to your most recent residential address it is accepted that the person has received the same. The new amendment provides for better ways to contact each individual. Now SPER correspondence can be sent to a residential address, postal boxes and email addresses. Not only will this allow infringements to be paid more efficiently it will also reduce disputes about whether or not the correspondence has been received. 

Although the bill introduces some more lenient features, as stated above, it has become more strict to those repeat offenders who do not pay the SPER debt. An example of added enforcement, vehicles can now be immobilised for a period of 14 days rather than the previous 5 days, garnishee orders can now be issued to those debtors who hold accounts with financial institutions, this includes the enhancement of current wage garnishee orders as well.


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