Fines

Sentencing Advisory Councils in Victoria and Tasmania explain that the purpose of a fine is to punish the offender and act as a deterrent to future offending by the offender and others. However, it is acknowledged that, in the context of domestic and family violence, a fine may not be an appropriate sanction because it may adversely impact the victim. For example, the fine may need to be paid from the joint financial resources of the victim and offender, or the offender may threaten or coerce the victim into paying the fine. This outcome may perpetuate the violence experienced by the victim and erode financial resources necessary to meet the daily living needs of the victim and their families.

In some studies victims have reported feeling that the imposition of a fine trivialised or minimised the harm they had experienced, or feeling that the court had not taken a breach of a protection order charge seriously where a fine was ordered. US research indicates that less intrusive sentences (such as fines and suspended sentences) impose limited responsibility on an offender to account for the harm they have caused, or to take steps to change their behaviour.

Other Australian bench books explain the potentially adverse implications of fines as a penalty option in the domestic and family violence context, and encourage judicial officers to have regard to all relevant factors, including the offender’s financial means.