State’s huge COVID fine total revealed

Annual crime statistics data released on Thursday morning has showed 37,505 fines had been handed out by Victoria Police for breaches of the chief health officer’s directions between January and December last year.That means Victoria’s total bill for COVID infringements tops at least $61.9m at a standard amount of $1652 per fine.About 80 per cent – 30,067 fines – were issued between July and October during the state’s tough second wave lockdown.There were 26,497 individual COVID-19 breach offenders, meaning 11,008 fines were issued to people who had received more than one.Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said enforcing the restrictions was “certainly necessary” to limit and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community, to save lives.As of January, less than 10 per cent of coronavirus-related infringements had been paid.Mr Nugent said it was frustrating for police members that so few fines had been paid.“They would be concerned if there’s a large number not paid,” he said on Thursday.“It’s not an area that they ever thought they would be policing – someone outside 5km from home or out for a non-permitted purpose or not wearing a mask.“Overall, the fines being available for people breaching did deter a lot of people.”But state Opposition leader Michael O’Brien has lashed Victoria Police for being “heavy handed” and over enforcing the directions.“There were too many incidences where we have seen a heavy handed approach by the police and the government in relation to COVID restrictions and we’ve seen that translate into lessening confidence in Victoria Police,” he said.“We saw ridiculous situations where teenage daughters going out for a practice drives with their mums were fined.“You would have hoped the attitude taken by the government and the police would have been education rather than punishment when it came to COVID breaches.“That’s a real shame. I’m a great supporter of Victoria Police and the very brave men and women who serve, but their reputation has been damaged because they were seen to be over enforcing very strict orders.”When quizzed by NCA NewsWire about a controversial policing tactic called kettling – where protesters were encircled by officers – which was used during the illegal lockdown demonstrations in Melbourne, Mr Nugent said it was so all COVID offenders could be processed.“They were already in that group breaching so all we were doing from a police perspective was ensuring we could process them for breaching the directions,” he said.“We know that the huge numbers of calls that came through … advising us of people having parties or breaching … that the community expected us to have a role.”Acting Police Minister Danny Pearson said it was about making sure that people adhered to the restrictions.Victoria Police has denied suggestions tens of thousands of COVID-related fines will be rescinded amid reports only 3000 have so far been paid in the state. “It was about making sure that people did do the right thing and obey those directions,” he said.“The expectation would be that those fines would be collected and that money would be collected.”Overall, crime in Victoria increased 0.6 per cent per 100,000 people during 2020, up 12,402 offences to 548,354.But Mr Nugent said if COVID offences were removed, crime would have decreased by 25,000 offences, or 6.2 per cent per 100,000 [email protected]

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