The number of regional Western Australians who have had their driver's licence suspended for unpaid fines or infringements has dropped from approximately 26,000 per year to zero.
That is equivalent to a full Optus Stadium's worth of regional motorists, who have been spared the harsh enforcement measures since the Government's sweeping fines reforms passed State Parliament in September 2020.
Amendments to the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Act 1994 (FPINE Act) were introduced to reduce the human and economic costs of prison to 'cut out' fines.
Among these changes was ensuring that only a magistrate could order imprisonment for non-payment of fines as a sanction of last resort.
Alternatives to prison were introduced, including 'work and development permits' allowing fine defaulters to work off their debt by doing community service, and garnishee orders allowing the Sheriff to access bank funds or earnings from debtors who can afford to pay.
OTHER GREAT READS:
The reforms followed recommendations from the 2014 coronial inquest into Ms Dhu, who died during a stint in police custody to 'cut out' fines, and the 2018 Pathways to Justice Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
The latter report recommended States and Territories avoid the suspension of remote drivers' licences as a fine default enforcement measure, because it entrenched disadvantage in areas where car travel was essential to access health services, employment, family, and community.
The amendments to the FPINE Act prohibited the issuing of licence suspension orders for fine defaulters whose last known address was outside the metropolitan area, a figure which had hovered at 26,000 a year.
"The old way of enforcing fines was economic insanity," said Attorney General John Quigley.
"The government was spending more on short incarcerations, including flying people to prisons across the State, than the value of the fines.
"The introduction of Work and Development Permits provides a tangible community dividend from fine defaulters addressing their debt, while garnishee orders ensure those who can pay a fine do so.
"Licence suspension has a disproportionate impact in the regions, where a car is often the only way of keeping a job or medical appointment.
"This prompted people to drive while disqualified, leading to a vicious cycle of offending, fines and enforcement.
"I am proud these reforms are having a real impact, improving outcomes for vulnerable and marginalised Western Australians."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.