LawRight April 2022 – Financial counselling, domestic violence and toll fines

LawRight, with support from a member firm, gave evidence this week to a parliamentary committee about the use of discretion and debt infringement notices*. In preparation, we reviewed 20 cases where we assisted homeless (or at risk) clients with toll and camera offence fines. We confirmed:

  • 79-80% of fines debtors were female and had a history of domestic violence.
  • The average fine debt was >$10,000 per person. On average, 44% of that debt related to unpaid tolls, often acquired by their former partners.

Women in this situation are often unaware of the fine or unable to pay.

Annie’s violent partner acquired >$10,000 of speeding, parking and toll fines in her vehicle, but kept the mail from her. Annie only became aware of the debt when she separated. The debt payment plan she felt compelled to agree to, left her unable to afford rent or food and she slept in a tent on a friend’s property.

Clare fled a violent and controlling relationship but the bad tenancy history, bank and consumer debts followed her, as well as a fines debt of >$20,000. LawRight advocated with the DTMR to have all Clare’s toll fines cancelled, cleared her negative tenancy history and helped her resolve the other ‘sexually transmitted debts’.

Annie and Clare are typical of the women assisted by LawRight’s financial counsellor in collaboration with pro bono lawyers. That strategic combination also recently secured a $30,000 credit card debt waiver for a 60 year old woman on DSP who had left her violent long-term marriage and is now homeless. She wrote to us this week:

“I just wanted everyone at LawRight to know what a wonderful caring finance counsellor you have on your team.”

*Read our submission and or watch an ABC news story from September 2021 here.