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COVID-19 fine reprieve welcome, but police must show compassion for disadvantaged young people with multiple infringements

A move to reverse the majority of COVID-19 fines handed out in Victoria during lockdown in 2020 must include leniency and compassion for young people who attracted multiple infringements, says the Youth Support + Advocacy Service (YSAS). 

YSAS is Victoria’s largest provider of alcohol and other drug services for young people, with 19 sites across the state. YSAS CEO Andrew Bruun said many YSAS clients have been severely impacted by the fines, sometimes up to $20,000 for one young person.  

Victoria Police data from September 2020 revealed that at that time, of the 16,565 COVID-related fines, 1,403 were handed out to under 18 year olds, and 4,298 to 18-24 year olds. 

“Many of our young people contend each day with problems that made compliance with COVID-19 restrictions extremely challenging such as family violence, unstable housing and difficult mental health issues. Some have attracted multiple fines. These extremely vulnerable young people should not be considered in the group that the State Government has identified as the ‘most egregious offenders’. 

“We support the effective public health initiatives applied by the Government to control Victoria’s devastating COVID-19 outbreak, including administering fines. Even so, fining extremely vulnerable young people and communities with legitimate reasons for not being able to comply with COVID-19 restrictions is unfair and detrimental. The revocation of these fines is both sensible and compassionate,” Mr Bruun said. 

“We work hard to enable our clients to overcome disadvantage and demonstrate to them that a better future is possible. Massive fines create an unnecessary barrier to this more constructive, healthy path and will end up with our young people tangled up in the justice system, the same one we’re working every day to keep them out of. No one wants that.”

About YSAS

The Youth Support + Advocacy Service (YSAS) is Australia’s largest, youth-specific community service organisation. Operating since 1998 as Victoria’s flagship Youth Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) service, YSAS now employs over 350 skilled staff across 19 sites in metropolitan and regional Victoria. While YSAS continues to provide effective Youth AOD services, the organisation also has extensive experience in providing young people and families with services that support improved mental health and meaningful community participation.

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