Thousands of Covid-19 fines worth millions of dollars could be ruled invalid after two Sydneysiders won a landmark test case in the New South Wales Supreme Court.
The man and woman claimed their infringement notices were issued in such vague terms they could not be legally enforced and would be difficult, if not impossible, to challenge in front of a magistrate.
On Tuesday morning, barrister David Kell SC for the Commissioner of Police told the Supreme Court the pair’s Covid penalty notices would no longer be enforced.
The two claimants, Brenden Beame and Teal Els, will have their fines refunded. A fine issued to a third claimant, Rohan Pank, had already been repaid.
The ruling could set a precedent that sees many of more than 45,000 unpaid penalty notices for Covid-related public health order breaches in NSW withdrawn.
Kate Richardson SC, for the claimants, said there were 32,648 fines – totalling almost $33million – issued for the same reason as that given to Mr Beame so ‘in all likelihood’ they too would be declared legally invalid if challenged.This is a case that has ramifications beyond Ms Els and Mr Beame,’ Ms Richardson said.
Ms Els was fined $3,000 for unlawfully participating in an outdoor public gathering.
A class action in NSW could now go ahead and similar law suits would likely be pursued in other states.
Between March 2020 and July this year there were 62,029 Covid fines issued totalling $56,499,080. As of May, 47,560 fines totalling $42,269,700 remained unpaid.