Calling in court fines in prison

Management of court fines

Unless otherwise directed by a court, all court fines will be referred to the Director of Fines Victoria for collection and management once the court fine order is made (s 13(1) of the Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic) (FRA)) and, unless a court orders otherwise, court fines which are not paid in accordance with the order, instalment order or payment arrangement will be registered with the Director for enforcement (s 15(1) of the FRA).

Although enforcement review is not available for registered court fines (s 31(3) of the FRA) unlike registered infringement fines, a client in custody may request that eligible court fines are converted into a period of imprisonment under the ‘Time Served’ Scheme (s 16A(1) of Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) (SA)).

A client may request a time served order regardless of whether the relevant warrant is either:

  • a warrant issued under s 69 of the SA in respect of a defaulted court fine; or
  • an enforcement warrant issued under the FRA in respect of a registered court fine.

The application must be made in writing to the sheriff, requesting the Director to apply to the court for an order for that person to receive a time served order under s 16A of the SA. For the purpose of this application, one penalty unit is equivalent to one day in custody (up to the maximum of 24 months) (ss 16A(2) and 69N of the SA). The current value of a penalty unit is $ 161.19 (as at 1 July 2018). If the court makes an order, it will count time served by your client from the date the application was made rather than the time the person entered custody on remand (s 16A(3) of the SA).

The court will usually order any additional time to be served concurrently (unless your client is in prison for any uncompleted sentence of imprisonment or detention in a youth justice centre or youth residential centre imposed on your client in default of payment of a fine or sum of money failing to pay a fine or sum of money, in which case it will generally be served cumulatively) (s 16(2) of the SA).

Practical matters with calling in court fines

In practice, we understand that:

  • When a prisoner is first brought into prison, they are provided with an information sheet about the Time Served Scheme as part of their ‘Prisoner Induction Kit’.
  • If they are interested in having their fines called in, they indicate this on a form called “Request to call in your Magistrates’ Court Arrest Warrants”, which is then sent back to the Director of Fines Victoria who will then make a Time Served application to the Magistrates’ Court on the prisoner’s behalf.
  • Generally, if the prisoner confirms they want the fines converted but there is not enough time left on their sentence, they will be provided with an information slip from Victoria Legal Aid (VLA), which explains the orders available to the court to deal with the excess fines. It also provides them with details of how they can get legal advice through VLA.

The key things to note when advising your client about the option of calling in their court fines are:

  • Applications to call in court fines need to be lodged and heard before a prisoner is released. This is different to infringements fines, which must be lodged before a prisoner is released but can be heard even after that.
  • If an application is lodged in relation to both court fines and infringement fines and the matter is only heard once a prisoner has been released, the application in relation to the court fines will be struck out. In practice, we understand that the Director of Fines Victoria and the Court will endeavour to try to hear all calling in fines applications prior to a prisoner being released.
  • Note that your client’s time on remand will not count towards time in lieu of paying the court fine. This is different to infringement fines, where time on remand can be counted.
  • Before applying to have their fines called in, your client should consider the length of the period of imprisonment they will be required to serve as a result. If the period is longer than the amount of time they have left to serve on their sentence, calling in the fines may have the effect of lengthening the overall period of imprisonment.

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