Cancel Loading...

Elect to have the matter heard in open court

Important changes from 31 December 2017

From 1 July 2017, the Infringements Act 2006 (Vic) was changed as part of Victoria's fines reform process, including new ‘social justice initiatives' that affect people experiencing vulnerability. On 31 December 2017, the Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic) commenced, creating Fines Victoria. This resulted in significant further changes to the infringements system and substantially shorter timeframes for dealing with infringements and fines.

Please be aware of these reforms in relation to any infringements assistance that you are providing to your clients.

We are in the process of updating Homeless Law in Practice. Justice Connect Homeless Law pro bono lawyers should read our further materials about the changes here (password needed), before doing any fines work after 1 July 2017. Please speak to your supervising lawyer, team leader or Homeless Law staff for more information.

Before an enforcement order is issued, your client may elect to have the matter heard in open court rather than have the fine dealt with under the infringements system.  Having the matter heard in open court gives a person the opportunity to put forward their individual circumstances.  Your client may wish to pursue this option if your client did not commit the offence or did not receive the infringement notice from the enforcement agency.

However, there are risks in electing to have the matter heard before a Magistrate, especially because a case brought before the court under section 16 or section 30 of the Infringements Act would not be heard in the Special Circumstances List. 

Generally, Homeless Law clients benefit from having matters heard in the Special Circumstances List rather than open court due to the specialised nature of the Special Circumstances List.  At open court, there is a risk that higher penalties will be imposed, a conviction recorded against the person or liability for court costs imposed.  Alternatively, the court may convert the fines to community work, reduce the amount of the penalty or allow the person to pay by instalments.  While it is sometimes possible to consolidate open court matters with matters already listed in the Special Circumstances List, there is no guarantee that this will be successful. 

If your client nevertheless wishes to elect to go to open court, we recommend you contact the Homeless Law lawyers to discuss the recommended steps. 

This option is not available for clients with excessive speed, drug driving and drink driving offences. 

If the fine is at enforcement stage, your client will no longer have the option to elect to go to open court.  For the options available to your client, click here.

How to elect to go to open court

If the fine is at infringement notice stage, your client can contact the agency directly and advise them of his or her decision to go to court (section 16).  If a penalty reminder notice has been served, then this election must be in writing and be served upon the enforcement agency (section 30).  Generally, your client can do this by completing the relevant section on the back of the infringement notice and returning it by post to the issuing agency. 

If the matter is heard in open court, both you and your client should attend. 

For more information about appearing in open court, click here.