TAS police charging fees for evidence is outrageous and unfair, say lawyers
2nd Nov 2018
Tasmanians are being billed by police to view the evidence of their criminal and traffic offence charges which is both unfair and out of line with the rest of Australia, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).
“If you are charged with an offence in the Magistrates Court and are not eligible for legal aid – you have to pay $53.90 to Tasmania Police to get the full set of statements and any other evidence relied on by police in the case. It is charged per offence so can add up to a significant sum of money,” said ALA Criminal Justice spokesperson, Mr Greg Barns.
“Not only that but Tasmania Police routinely redact the names of witnesses and co-accused in materials given to the defence so we have no idea of the identity of the relevant individuals in the case.
“It is an outrageous system and it needs to change.”
The fees apply to evidence for a range of offences including drink driving, speeding, theft, assault, minor drugs offences and breach of family violence orders.
“Charging people who, despite their disadvantaged financial circumstances, are not eligible for legal aid, makes it difficult for them to be able to properly defend their charges,” said Mr Fabiano Cangelosi, ALA Tasmanian State President. “This is unfair and seriously obstructs their access to justice.”
“Police have fought for four years to stop the government from abolishing fees and bringing disclosure laws into line with the rest of Australia. In every other Australian jurisdiction police have to provide all materials they have in the case against you and they are not able to charge for it.”
Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights clearly states that everyone charged with a criminal offence has the right to be “informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him”.
“The system also results in a significant financial cost to the state as it causes delays in criminal hearings, given that the materials that are eventually provided are redacted and omit crucial information to allow for thorough and proper preparation of defences,” said Mr Cangelosi.
“Full provision of the information at an early stage at no cost would facilitate earlier resolution of criminal hearings, allow for plea negotiations, and thereby reduce the delays and strain on court resources. It will save the state substantial revenue in the criminal justice system.”