Proposed ‘crime levy’ just a tax on the poor

25th Sep 2015

The Tasmanian government’s proposed ‘crime levy’ is an unfair tax that will reduce access to justice and fall unfairly on low income earners, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

The Costs of Criminal Convictions Bill 2015 would see offenders pay criminal conviction costs of $50 when sentenced by the Magistrates Court and $150 when sentenced by the Supreme Court.

ALA Tasmania President Henry Pill said the proposed new levy would predominantly be levied on people who are already under financial pressure.

“The government’s proposed crime levy is really just an additional tax that will be paid by vulnerable people for the administration of justice,” Mr Pill said.

“We are already dealing with people who find themselves in crushing poverty and who are often unemployed. Slugging them with a ‘crime levy’ only compounds the problem.”

“The fact of the matter is that people who use the court system already pay a victims of crime levy and are already responsible for costs of the court,” Mr Pill said.

“Surely society recognises that to impose a third additional charge on people who simply cannot afford it is unfair and inhibits access to justice.”

“Mandatory charges of this kind will remove discretion from the judiciary in deciding whether the defendant has the financial capacity to pay.  It is an abrogation of long established principles of sentencing and will see underprivileged people landed in even more trouble, when the charges cannot be paid,” Mr Pill said.

Mr Pill said that the issues created by penalties such as crime levies were also compounded by the lack of resources for services such as Legal Aid.

“The vast number of people who face court can’t afford private legal representation,” Mr Pill said.

“Access to legal aid is patchy at best, and many people are forced by circumstance to plead guilty. A crime levy would virtually be a fine invoked on a guilty plea.”

Mr Pill urged the government not to introduce the Crime Levy Bill, and instead invest additional resources into Legal Aid.

Tags: Tasmania Access to justice