Tele: Drug law reformer Matt Noffs calls for drug fines to be means tested

Wealthy drug users like city bankers and residents of Vaucluse should be fined more than poor people in Redfern, according to drug law reformer Matt Noffs.

Wealthy drug users like city bankers and residents of Vaucluse should be fined more than poor people in Redfern, leading drug law reformer Matt Noffs has said.

He said the means testing of fines was only fair.

“Many of those who will get caught for drug possession will be poor,” Mr Noffs, the head of the Ted Noffs Foundation, the country’s largest drug and alcohol treatment service provider for young people, said.

“The wealthier drug users are unlikely to be caught. They live in suburbs like Vaucluse, they have lawyers and accountants.”

Mr Noffs said The Daily Telegraph’s report that revealed dozens of drug users had refused to pay their $400 fines issued under Criminal Infringement Notices raised important issues.

Figures from Revenue NSW showed out of the 797 people handed CINs for use and possession of small amounts of drugs since the trial began in January 2019, at least 72 had refused to pay including 10 who still owe the money after two years.

Mr Noffs, who is also spokesperson for Take Control, which campaigns for “safer saner drugs laws”, backs the use of CINs for use and possession of small amounts of drugs but said it was a waste of time chasing poor people who “live in Redfern on Centrelink” and cannot pay their fine.

“If fines remain in place, they should be means-tested based on what a person earns,” he said.

“If a poor person is fined for drug possession there’s no point chasing the money. However, the city banker caught with cocaine should absolutely be fined and taken to court for not paying. Wouldn’t that be common sense?“

Matt Noffs said the means testing of fines was only fair.

He said it should be up to Revenue NSW, who chase up the fines, to reduce them if poor people could not pay and then “coerce” but not mandate them into drug rehabilitation.

Rich people who don’t pay should be taken to court and given a criminal conviction but it would be “ridiculous” to do the same with poor people, Mr Noffs said.

“They are already poor in the first place and they are spending most if not all of their money on drugs and if we really want to help that person, the system should be guiding them,” he said.

CINs, which have the support of the police, were introduced in January 2019 after a series of drug deaths of young people at music festivals.

Fine defaulters in NSW have not faced jail since teenager Jamie Partlic was sentenced to four days behind bars in 1987 for not paying parking fines and was left brain damaged after a savage beating from a cellmate.

Finance Minister Damien Tudehope yesterday did not address whether the government would consider means testing fines.

“People experiencing hardship can contact Revenue NSW to manage their fines, including payment plans, time extensions and Work and Development Orders (WDOs),” he said.

“This means that offenders are still held accountable for their actions.”

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