In this section
The Family Violence Scheme (FVS) is an option for people who have experienced family violence and who have accrued fines as a result of family violence. An application can be made to the Scheme under section 10M of the Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic) (FRA) for the fine to be withdrawn if a person is a victim of family violence and the family violence substantially contributed to the his/her inability to control the offending behaviour or to nominate the driver responsible for the offence (see s 10M of the FRA). An application under the FVS can also resolve demerit points.
Your client can apply to the FVS if:
For example your client might be eligible under the family violence scheme if they were speeding or running red lights to escape a perpetrator of family violence. Similarly your client may be eligible for the scheme if a perpetrator of family violence accrued tollway fines in their name and it was unsafe to nominate them or stop them from using their car. Family violence can also include instances of elder abuse by children and grandchildren against older family members. Applications are determined by a specialist trained family violence team within Fines Victoria. For further examples, please refer to Fines Victoria’s guide to the Family Violence Scheme.
The meaning of ‘family violence’ under the FVS is the same as the meaning found in s 5 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) (FVPA).
Applications to the FVS can be made at any stage in the lifecycle of the fine. However, they cannot be made after:
An application to the FVS can also not be made if:
Certain types of offences cannot be dealt with under the Scheme including excessive speed, drink and drug driving and offences against local council laws (other than parking fines).
To apply to the scheme, you need to complete the Family Violence Scheme Application form and attached supporting documentation, which includes either a document prepared by a relevant authority or professional or a statutory declaration from the client.
The application and the supporting document(s) need to show that your client is a victim of family violence and how the family violence substantially contributed to the fine. It is not necessary for the client to provide lots of personal details of their relationship with the perpetrator, or all instances of family violence they have experienced. For information on the level of detail required in a FVS application, refer to Fines Victoria’s guide to the Family Violence Scheme.
The application should establish the client is a victim-survivor of family violence
The application should include information on the time period your client experienced family violence, their relationship to the perpetrator and the general nature of the family violence (for example, physical, emotional, financial).
The application should establish the family violence substantially contributed to the fine
The application needs to describe the link between the fine and the family violence. The family violence does not need to be the sole reason for the fine, but it must have contributed in a substantial way. The guide to the family violence scheme released by Fines Victoria details what should be included in circumstances where your client committed the act(s) that resulted in the fine and in circumstances where someone other than your client committed the act(s) that resulted in the fine.
Evidence to support the application
There should be at least one supporting document attached to the application. This may be a document prepared by a relevant authority or professional, or a statutory declaration by the client if there are no other relevant documents.
A family violence intervention order or family violence safety notice can be used to confirm your client is a victim of family violence, however these do not show how the family violence substantially contributed to the fine and so further information or evidence will need to be provided to establish this.
A report, support letter or statement by a professional should set out:
This can be prepared by a wide range of professionals, for example, a lawyer, case or social worker, psychologist, medical practitioner or family violence practitioner.
If your client is applying on the basis of mental health or substance abuse issues linked to family violence, generally a report by a relevant professional will be required.
If the application and supporting evidence does not include enough information, the Director will request further information, which you will need to provide within 14 days or request an extension.
When an application to the scheme is approved, the relevant fines will be cancelled together with any demerit points that may apply or if requested, put on hold so your client can nominate the responsible driver later. This makes this option far more attractive than special circumstances on the grounds of family violence. If the application is successful, there is no requirement to attend court.
In circumstances where a person is not the driver accumulating the fines, there is the option to defer nomination for up to six months (s 10V FRA). This allows your client time to consider whether nomination is a safer option at a later stage. However, even if a client decides not to nominate, all the fines which are the subject of a successful application under the scheme will be cancelled.
The Director retains the power to send fines back to enforcement agencies for prosecution in very limited circumstances which could end up with a client being charged and summonsed to court (s 10X FRA). However, the Director has indicated that applicants will be given an opportunity to withdraw their application before this occurs, which means that there is limited risk that someone applying to the FVS will end up in court. The Director will provide a client with at least 14 days advance notice if they intend to refer the fines back to the enforcement agency and at this point, your client should be provided with advice on whether or not to withdraw their application.
Within 21 days of the Director notifying an applicant that their application was not successful, an applicant must pay the fine or take other action (eg, enforcement review, Work and Development Permit application, payment plan). Otherwise, enforcement action will resume in relation to the infringement offence.
Note: The FVS is an alternative to applying for an enforcement review on the basis of family violence and the client cannot make an application under the FVS if an application has already been made, and not withdrawn for enforcement review (on the basis of family violence): see s 10M(3) FRA.
However if an application for FVS is refused, you can still apply for enforcement review on any basis except family violence (see s 32(2)(b)).
Your client can elect to have the fines heard in court if a Notice of Final Demand has not been issued by Fines Victoria.
|Family Violence Scheme||Enforcement review special circumstances (family violence)|
|Broader definition (FV substantially contributed to conduct)||Stricter causal nexus (FV resulted in being unable to control the conduct)|
|No risk of going to court
If successful, enforcement agency must withdraw infringement except in limited circumstances.
If Director plans to send fines back to the enforcement agencies, client will be notified and can withdraw application.
|If successful, enforcement agency can still elect to commence a proceeding in court (within 90 days) – risk of finding of guilt|
|No demerit points||Demerit points will apply if goes to court|
For more information about the Family Violence Scheme and an application form, see the Department of Justice website here.
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