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Criminal lawyers to fight fines of $5,000 for Covid-19 lockdown breaches

14 August 2021

With on-the-spot fines of up to $5000 for individuals and businesses breaching lockdown laws in NSW, the government is not messing around when it comes to lockdown offences.

While fines or infringement notices for breaching lockdown laws can be challenged in court, it is important to get legal advice from a criminal lawyer in deciding whether to do so.

Accepting a fine or infringement notice does not give you a criminal record; however, once you elect to have the case heard in court, the court does have the power to convict you for the offence, giving you a criminal record for at least 10 years.  The court can also impose a fine of a higher amount than the original fine, or even send you to prison. This is because the punishment a court can impose is greater than the police can impose, with a court being empowered to issue fines of up to $11,000, and sentences of imprisonment of up to 6 months, or both.

The advantage of challenging a fine in court, on the other hand, is that the court can find you not guilty of an offence (for example if you have the defence of a ‘reasonable excuse’ for the breach).  The court may also reduce the fine, or choose to deal with you by section 10,  meaning you receive no fine at all and no criminal record.

With the rapid implementation, ongoing, and often daily changes involving public health orders, however, it is important to seek advice from an experienced criminal lawyer if you have received a fine or infringement notice relating to COVID-19 restrictions.

Changes to Lockdown Laws Announced Today (14 August 2021)

Today the Government announced the following changes to public orders:

  • On the spot fines increased to $5,000.
  • Bans on anyone from travelling to holiday homes, unless for maintenance, and then only one person being allowed to attend to the premises.
  • People local government areas of concern who are taking part in a singles bubble will need to register the name of their single buddy. The nominated pair must also live within five kilometres of each other.

The government frequently updates its guidelines for the public health orders on their website at NSW Gov – Covid 19 Rules.   We recommend keeping yourself informed of all public health updates for your Local Government Area (LGA) to avoid being charged with a public health order offence.

What public health orders apply for the greater Sydney area?

Across the greater Sydney area, public health orders in place on 14 August 2021 include:

  • Stay at home orders
  • Rules for when leaving the home
    • Restrictions for when you are travelling by car
    • Restrictions for when you are shopping
    • Exercise and outdoor recreation restrictions
    • The requirement to carry proof of identification outside the home
  • Restrictions relating to the operation of certain businesses and services
  • Working from home rules where it is possible to do so
  • Wearing facemasks outdoors and in common property in residential buildings.
  • Restrictions on those from outside the greater area of Sydney from entering the area
  • Restrictions on visitors to residential dwellings including, bans, nominated visitor (“singles bubble”), caring and compassionate visit directions
  • Restrictions to real estate auctions and open inspections
  • Restrictions to outdoor gatherings
  • Restrictions to worship, weddings and funerals
  • Restricted access to aged care facilities
  • Restrictions to building and construction

Covid restrictions vary between each LGA.  The most up-to-date details relating to the restrictions in your LGA can be found here on the governments website .

What should I do if I have been charged with breaching  COVID-19 restrictions?

If you have been charged or believe you will be charged with an offence relating to a breach of NSW restrictions, seek legal advice from a criminal lawyer and representation as soon as possible.

Australian Criminal Law Group has the best criminal lawyers to fight COVID-19 fines. Contact us on (02) 8815 8167 or email us at info@aclawgroup.com.au today.

What Powers to Police have During Covid-19 Restrictions?

Police officers in NSW are responsible for enforcing public health orders within the community.  This includes issuing on-the-spot-fines and extends to random identity checks to confirm compliance of community members.

As such, laws have changed, granting NSW police new powers to enforce current public health orders.

These include:

  • A police officer can request evidence of your name and place of residence to check compliance to the public health orders.
  • A police officer can issue a penalty infringement notice (and impose fine) where there a breach to the public health order.
  • A police officer may arrest a person for failing to comply with a Covid-19 public health order. However, an arrest should always be a last resort especially for minor offences.
  • A police officer can only make an arrest if the police officer believes the arrest is absolutely necessary – ie. To prevent the further commission of the offence, to protect a person’s safety or welfare or because of the seriousness and nature of the offence.

Do I have to provide police with a reason for being out of home?

You do not have to disclose any information to a police officer other than your name and address, if you chose not to.

A police officer may request proof of identity and place of residence from a person out of their home during stay-at-home orders.  It is an offence not to provide this information if asked to do so.   However, in most situations, further information does not need to be disclosed if you chose not to.

In order to issue an infringement notice for a breach of a stay at home order, a police officer must first be satisfied that you do not have a reasonable excuse for leaving your home.  The police officer might, therefore, question why you must determine if you have a reasonable excuse.

If you have a reasonable excuse, we recommend that you do provide this information to avoid an infringement notice.  However, despite what a police officer may tell you, there is no legal obligation for you to answer every question they may ask.  This includes questions about why you left your home.

Do Police have the right to enter my home to enforce COVID restrictions?

Police have no general right to enter a private residence when enforcing the Health Ministers Direction.

A police officer can only lawfully enter your home when the owner/occupier/person apparently in charge invites them to do so or in special circumstances as per the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002.  This includes; When a breach of the peach is being committed; If necessary to prevent a breach of the peace; If a person has suffered or is in imminent danger of suffering significant personal injury; or, where they have a warrant to do so.

There is no legal obligation to otherwise permit a Police office enter to your private residence.

Penalties for Individuals breaching Lockdown Laws:

As of 14 August 2021, the penalties that follow apply.

The maximum penalty for an individual if they breach a Public Health Order is $11,000 or 6 months imprisonment, or both. Should the person continue to breach the order they can be issued a $5,500 penalty for each day the offence continues.

Police can also issue an on-the-spot fines, including:

  • $5,000 for breach of a public health order
  • of $5,000 for intentionally spitting at or coughing on a public official or another worker while the worker is at work or travelling to or from work in a way that would reasonably be likely to cause fear about the spread of COVID-19.
  • $500 for failure to comply with a direction to wear or carry a mask for those aged 18 years or older
  • $80 for failure to comply with a direction to wear or carry a mask for those aged 16 or 17 years of age
  • $40 for failure to comply with a direction to wear or carry a mask for those aged 15 or younger.

Penalties for Businesses breaching Lockdown Laws:

The maximum penalty for businesses that fail to comply with Public Health Orders is $55,000. Should the business continue to fail to comply with the orders, a further $27,500 penalty may be given for each day the offence continues.

Businesses that do not allow employees that can reasonably work from home to do so face a fine of up to $10,000 for corporations ($2,000 for individuals).

Can I dispute a fine or infringement notice for lockdown law breaches?

Yes. You have the right to dispute you committed an offence in court.

If you are issued with an infringement notice, you dispute that you committed the offence, electing to have the matter heard in court.   The police will burden the responsibility of proving that an infringement took place to the court.

You can request leniency for breaches to lockdown laws

There may be special circumstances that entitle you to leniency even when it has been established that an infringement took place.  For example, you might request a reduction or review of a fine if you can’t afford to pay.

You can request a review of your penalty notice by Revenue NSW and/or appeal the penalty notice to the Local Court.

NSW Public Health Order Updates

The NSW Minister of Health and Medical Research has as made a number of Public Health Orders under section 7 of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW) (the Act) – NSW Legislation – Covid 19 Legislation

These orders include restrictions for individuals and businesses in NSW in order to reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19.  These restrictions are commonly referred to as NSW restrictions, Lockdown Laws, Covid Restrictions, Covid-19 Restrictions, Delta Restrictions NSW.  Current orders in place are summarised below with links to more information.

Given their frequent updates and amendments, we recommend visiting NSW Legislation – Covid 19 Legislation for the most up-to-date orders.   The NSW government also publishes regular updates to the NSW covid restrictions included in the orders on their website at NSW Gov – Covid 19 Rules.

What Public Health Orders are in force in NSW?

As at 12/8/21, the following public health orders are in force in NSW.

Are COVID-19 Restrictions enforceable in NSW?

Yes COVID-19 Restrictions are enforceable in NSW.

Covid Restrictions NSW are imposed as part of Public Health Orders under the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW) (the Act).  Breach of orders made under the Act are considered a criminal offence and attract heavy penalties.

Public Health Powers under the act and Covid restrictions

The NSW Government has the power to take action to deal with public health risks and potential consequences when a situation arises that is a risk to public health.  These are known as Public Health Powers.

Public Health Powers allow the NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research to make directions deemed necessary to reduce the risk and consequences where there is public health risk situation.  These directions are made via Public Health Orders.

An order may declare a public health risk area and contain Minister directions necessary to ;

  • Reduce or remove any risk to public health in the area,
  • to segregate or isolate inhabitants of the area, and
  • and or remove any risk to public health in the area, and

Orders made under the Public Health Powers expire after 90 days.

The NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research has made a number of orders to deal with COVID-19 across NSW and the greater Sydney area.  Those Public Health Orders include restrictions for individuals and businesses in NSW which are commonly referred to as NSW Covid Restrictions and the ‘lockdown laws’ NSW.   Failure to comply Public Health Powers, and as such the recent Covid Restrictions, is a criminal offence.

Contact Australian Criminal Law Group Criminal Lawyers

Australian Criminal Law Group criminal lawyers can help build the best defence for charges relating to breaches of NSW covid restrictions, including defending the charges and obtaining lenient penalties if you admit your guilty to the charges.  Our lawyers are recognised as the best criminal lawyers in Sydney, and we have proven results across all criminal law matters.  Our criminal lawyers can navigate the complex legal system for you and will work tirelessly to get you the best results for your case.

We have offices in Parramatta, Sydney and Blacktown.

Call us on (02) 8815 8167 or make a website enquiry.

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This information is intended as a general guide to law only.  It should not be relied on as legal advice and it is recommended that you speak with a qualified lawyer about your situation.

Australian Criminal Law Group and its suppliers make every reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information provided on its web pages. At the time of updating, this information was correct, however, given the laws in NSW and Australia are continually changing, Australian Criminal Law Group make no warranties or representations as to its accuracy.

 

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