Melbourne Innovating project
Special Circumstances Infringement Project

Context

Special Circumstances Infringement Project

The Special Circumstances Infringement Project was initiated by the City of Melbourne in 2011, in conjunction with the United Nations Global Compact – Cities Programme.

The project sought to improve sectoral approaches to reviewing applications for internal review of an infringement notice on the grounds of special circumstances. The project brought together key stakeholders from multiple government and non-government agencies that intersect, at various levels, with people with special circumstances.

About people with special circumstances

Special circumstances is defined in the Infringements Act 2006 as “a mental or intellectual disability, disorder, disease or illness… [or] a serious addiction to drugs, or alcohol or a volatile substance…[or] homelessness determined in accordance with the prescribed criteria…[where one of these apply] results in the person being unable to [either] understand that conduct constitutes an offence; or to control conduct that constitutes an offence”.

Representatives from community legal centres report that persons experiencing special circumstances are more susceptible to, and disproportionately impacted by, receiving an infringement notice. Navigating the infringements system can be complex for people with special circumstances, and many applicants require assistance. Social and legal support agencies spend a substantial amount of time and resources assisting individuals with infringement matters. The affected individuals themselves also often experience psychological health impacts and residual unpaid debt. Individuals with special circumstances often have multiple infringement matters with multiple enforcement agencies.

About the internal review process

A person who receives an infringement notice has the right to request that the issuing enforcement agency review its decision to issue the notice. Internal review applications can be made where there has been a mistake in identity, where the person believes the infringement notice has been issued contrary to law, where there are special circumstances (as defined in the legislation) or where there are exceptional circumstances that the applicant believes justify excusing the conduct.

The infringements system is largely automated and the internal review process provides an opportunity to consider individual circumstances and, where appropriate, to divert people out of the infringements system. Applications on the grounds of special circumstances represent a very small proportion of internal review applications, but are an important option when balancing enforcement and protection of vulnerable people.

About the project

Internal review applications on the grounds of special circumstances, by their nature, are often more complex and involve additional time and monetary resources for enforcement agencies. While all enforcement agencies have legislative responsibilities under the Infringements Act 2006, operational processes may vary from agency to agency. This project brings together representatives from enforcement agencies and the community sector to encourage consistent processes and provide greater clarity about acceptable evidence to assist enforcement agencies conducting internal reviews and to improve the internal review process for people with special circumstances.

The project is currently developing a model policy for the internal review of infringement notices on the grounds of special circumstances. The overarching objectives of the model policy are to:

a) improve the internal review process for people with special circumstances;

b) assist enforcement agencies and the applicant to comply with their legal responsibilities under the Infringements Act 2006 and the requirements of procedural fairness;

c) provide a guidance framework for enforcement agencies in dealing with special circumstances internal review applications;

d) afford consideration to the common difficulties experienced by people with special circumstances; and

e) outline the information required to be submitted for an application to be considered in full.


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