March 30, 2008 12:30am
DRIVERS who speed while travelling interstate will no longer be able to escape paying their fines.
A meeting of attorneys-general in the Barossa Valley this week agreed to amend legislation to close the loophole.
Under current laws, people who incur court-imposed fines in one state, but live in another state, have avoided paying them because they cannot be legally enforced.
The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting "approved in principle" a system of mutual recognition between states of "administrative fines (including enforcement orders in relation to unpaid fines) and to permit those interstate fines and orders to be enforced using local laws and enforcement mechanisms".
This would entail the Federal Government amending the Service and Execution of Process Act to enable fines to be registered for enforcement in accordance with the laws of the state or territory where the defendant resides.
Courts Administration Authority Fines Payment Unit figures reveal the State Government is currently powerless to enforce fines worth just over $19.2 million owed by people living interstate.
The amount is owed by 31,248 people in connection with 57,502 fines and penalties for offences ranging from speeding to parking infringements.
The figures show Victorians owe South Australia the most in unpaid fines with almost 13,000 people owing just over $7.6 million.
There are 4730 Queenslanders who owe just over $3 million and 5723 people from New South Wales who owe just over $3.4 million.
A spokesman for South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson yesterday said that "there is clearly a lot of money in unpaid fines to be collected from people living interstate".
"Even given the difficulty in recovering it, if we just get half of it that would be a good result for South Australia," he said.
"We know there are billions of dollars in unpaid fines around Australia, so there will also be South Australians caught in reverse through this measure".
The new measure will be retrospective, meaning those with outstanding fines will be forced to pay them.
While the attorneys-general approved the legislative change, they stopped short of approving jail for fine defaulters.
An exemption has been granted to ensure a person who does not pay a fine incurred in another state cannot be jailed for non-payment.