Listen
Stop

Public Transport Offences

1. Travelling on buses

For any of the following offences a person can be fined up to $360:

  • not having a valid ticket on each bus trip;
  • having a valid ticket that is damaged; and
  • using a concession ticket when you are not a concession.

2. Offences on buses

A person commits an offence when they are on a bus if:

  • they put a foot on a bus seat;or
  • they prevent a person from being able to sit on a bus seat; or
  • they spit when they are on the bus; or
  • they throw something in the bus or from the bus; or
  • they drink alcohol or have an open container of alcohol on the bus; or
  • they eat and drink on the bus when signs say you cannot; or
  • they litter on the bus; or
  • they use offensive language; or
  • behave in an offensive way; or
  • behave in an aggressive way; or
  • they interfere with someone else’s’ comfort or safety on the bus.

For these offences the maximum amount you can be fined will vary from $181 to $360.

It is also an offence to travel with your animal on a bus without permission. It is not an offence to travel with a guide-dog or assistance animal if you are a person with a disability.

3. Travelling on Light Rail

When travelling on the Light Rail you must:

  • Have a valid light rail ticket for each trip;
  • Not damage your ticket; and
  • Only use a concession ticket if you are a concession.

You can be fined up to $360 for failing to comply with these requirements.

4. Light Rail Offences

A person commits an offence if they:

  • put their foot on a light rail seat;
  • spit on the light rail or at a light rail stop;
  • use offensive language on the light rail or at a light rail stop;
  • behave in an offensive or aggressive way on the light rail or at a light rail stop;
  • get in the way of a light rail door;
  • get off the light rail while it is moving;
  • throw objects on or from the light rail;
  • drink alcohol or have an open container of alcohol on the light rail or at a light rail stop;
  • eat or drink on the light rail when there is a sign saying you cannot eat or drink; and
  • travel with an animal that is not confined in a box, basket or other container.

Fines for these offences will vary from $181 to a maximum of $360.

5. What do I do if I receive a fine on public transport?

If you receive a fine on public transport you must take action within 28 days. If you do not you will be sent a reminder notice and charged an additional $34. You will then have another 28 days to take action.

When you receive an infringement notice for a public transport offence you can:

  1. Pay the fine in total;
  2. Dispute liability for the fine in writing;
  3. Apply to pay the fine by installments through an infringement notice management plan (INMP);
  4. Ask for the fine to be withdrawn;
  5. Apply for a waiver of the fine; or
  6. Apply for more time to pay the fine.

You can pay a public transport fine online at the Access Canberra website here: https://form.act.gov.au/ smartforms/landing.htm?formCode=1009-action

6. Applying for withdrawal of the fine or an extension of time

You can apply for the withdrawal of a fine or an extension of time to pay the fine at the Access Canberra website at this link: https://form.act.gov.au/ smartforms/servlet/SmartForm.html?formCode=1305

Reasons a fine may be withdrawn include:

  • Administrative or technical reason outside of your control — this means that the ticket machine was defective or broken;
  • The infringement ticket issued to you contains an error;
  • You can provide a statement explaining the type of concession that you have;
  • You can prove that you paid for your ticket;
  • You can prove that the ticket machine was faulty and you took reasonable steps to obtain a ticket;
  • You can prove that you were eating or drinking for medical reasons;
  • You can prove that the animal was guide dog or assistance animal; or
  • You can prove that you were in the 90 minute window.

7. Applying for a waiver

You can apply for a waiver of a fine at the Access Canberra website here: https://form.act.gov.au/ smartforms/servlet/SmartForm.html?formCode=1305

If you apply for a waiver of a fine you will need to provide evidence that:

  • you cannot pay the fine; and
  • you have special circumstances (eg disability, homelessness); and
  • enforcement action (like suspension of your licence) is unlikely to make you pay) and
  • you are not able to complete an approve community work or social development program.

8. Applying for an INMP

You can apply for an INMP to either:

  • Pay your fine in instalments; or
  • Enter into an approved community work or social development plan.

You can apply for an INMP on the Access Canberra website here: https://form.act.gov.au/ smartforms/servlet/SmartForm.html?formCode=1305

For more information on how to apply for an INMP see our Factsheets on:

  • Apply to pay by instalments; or
  • Completing a work or development program.

9. Disputing liability

You can apply to dispute liability for a public transport fine online at the Access Canberra website at this link: https://form.act.gov.au/ smartforms/servlet/SmartForm.html?formCode=1305

You will need to provide the reasons why you dispute liability and evidence supporting your application. You should only dispute liability if:

  • you were not responsible for the infringement; or
  • there was no infringement.

If you choose to dispute liability it is possible that you will have to go to the Magistrates Court to sort out the matter. If you lose your dispute you might be convicted of an offence and required to pay the additional costs of going to court.

10. Apply for more time to pay the fine

You can apply for an extension of time to pay your fine here: https://form.act.gov.au/ smartforms/servlet/SmartForm.html?formCode=1305

You can apply for an extension of time to:

  • pay the fine;
  • apply for a waiver of the fine; or
  • enter into an INMP.

If you apply for an extension of time after 56 days has passed (28 days +28 days), you will have to explain your special circumstances that stopped you from applying for an extension of time previously.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 20 May 2021

Listen
Stop

Window washing and other on-road commercial activities

Following the introduction of Canberra’s light rail service in 2019, it has become an offence to engage in on-road commercial activities along specific sections of the light rail corridor.

You can be fined $75 if you are found to be engaging in on-road commercial activities at designated intersections.

1. What are on-road commercial activities?

On-road commercial activities include:

  • washing, cleaning or offering to wash or clean the windscreen
  • selling or offering items for sale
  • displaying an advertisement
  • hitchhiking, and
  • seeking contributions, employment or business from a person in a vehicle.

2. Where are the designated intersections?

You are not allowed to engage in any on-road commercial activities at the following intersections:

  • Northbourne Avenue with Barry Drive and Cooyong Street
  • Northbourne Avenue with MacArthur Avenue and Wakefield Avenue
  • Northbourne Avenue with Mouat Street and Antill Street
  • Northbourne Avenue with Barton Highway and Federal Highway
  • Federal Highway with Flemington Road.


Image sourced from the ACT Government

3. Is it illegal to wash windscreens at non-designated intersections?

No, it is only an offence to wash, clean or offer to wash or clean a windscreen at designated intersections along the light rail corridor. If you wash windscreens at a designated intersection, you could receive an infringement notice penalty fining you $75.

If you wash windscreens at a non-designated intersection, this may be considered ‘hawking’. If, in the course of hawking, you hinder or obstruct the free movement of people or vehicles or endanger the safety of members of the public, you may be committing an offence as a ‘hawker’ and fines may apply.

4. What do I do if I receive a fine?

If you receive a fine on public transport you must take action within 28 days. If you do not you will be sent a reminder notice and charged an additional $34. You will then have another 28 days to take action.

When you receive an infringement notice for a public transport offence you can:

  1. Pay the fine in total;
  2. Dispute liability for the fine in writing;
  3. Apply to discharge the fine through an infringement notice management plan (INMP);
  4. Ask for the fine to be withdrawn;
  5. Apply for a waiver of the fine; or
  6. Ask for more time to pay the fine.

You can pay you fine on the Access Canberra website under the ‘pay infringement’ tab here: https://rego.act.gov.au/ regosoawicket/public/inf/ PayInfringementPage

You can apply to:

  • dispute liability;
  • apply for an INMP;
  • ask the fine to be withdrawn;
  • apply for a waiver; or
  • apply for an extension of time,

On the Access Canberra website under the ‘manage infringement’ tab here: https://www.accesscanberra. act.gov.au/s/article/traffic-and-parking-infringements- tab-overview

5. What is an INMP?

Under an INMP you can apply to pay your fine in instalments or discharge your fine by completing a community work and development program. For more information on an INMP see our factsheets on the Street Law website on Apply to pay in instalment or ‘Completing a work and development program’ which can be accessed here: Street Law Factsheets and Brochures

6. Disputing Liability

If you dispute liability you will need to provide the reasons why you dispute liability and evidence supporting your application. You should only dispute liability if:

  • you were not responsible for the infringement; or
  • there was no infringement.

If you choose to dispute liability it is possible that you will have to go to the Magistrates Court to sort out the matter. If you lose your dispute you might be convicted of an offence and required to pay the additional costs of going to court.

For more information on disputing liability see our ‘Disputing liability for a fine’ factsheet on the Street Law website which can be accessed here: Disputing liability for a fine

7. Applying for withdrawal of a fine

Reasons a fine may be withdrawn include:

  • The infringement ticket issued to you contains an error;
  • there is not enough evidence to prove you committed the offence; or
  • there were exceptional circumstances.

8. Applying for a waiver

If you apply for a waiver of a fine you will need to provide evidence that:

  • you cannot pay the fine; and
  • you have special circumstances (eg disability, homelessness); and
  • enforcement action (like suspension of your licence) is unlikely to make you pay) and
  • you are not able to complete an approve community work or social development program.

For more information on each of these options see our Factsheets on the Street Law website: Street Law Factsheets and Brochures

It is important to deal with your fine of $75. If you do not pay it, you could be charged and receive a larger fine of $1600

For more information feel free to contact Street Law at:

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 20 May 2021

Listen
Stop

Pets

A significant number of people who are homeless share their journey with their pets. That may be for a number of reasons, including because it can be hard to access safe accommodation that is pet‐friendly, the importance of the companionship of a pet for a person’s mental health, or even for some people finding themselves sleeping rough, for security and warmth.

It is important to know that there are laws that impact on pet ownership in the ACT, and that failure to comply with these laws could result in fines or even seizure of your pet. This factsheet will cover the main legal obligations for keeping a pet dog or cat in Canberra, as well as where you can get help.

New Dogs / Selling or Giving Away a Dog

If ownership of a dog is transferred in the ACT, there is a requirement to notify the registrar of Domestic Animal Services of the name and address of the new owner, within 14 days. This obligation applies to both the old and new owner, and a fine of up to $1600 can be levied for non‐compliance.

Registration

If you own a dog in the ACT and have been in the ACT for more than 28 days, you must register it in the ACT, even if it has been registered previously in another state or territory. Registration costs $57.55, or $20.70 if you receive a Centrelink benefit. From July 1 2021 a dog must be registered every 12 months. You will receive a reminder notice 14 days before the registration expires. If you do not register your dog each year you could be fined up to $1600. This is a once‐off fee, and registration is for the lifetime of the dog, unless you surrender or cancel the registration. Your dog must also be microchipped, and desexed unless you hold a special permit to allow for breeding your dog. Failure to register your dog in the ACT can attract a fine of up to $2400. Unregistered dogs may be seized by Domestic Animal Services.

Microchipping

If your pet is lost, microchipping can help it to be identified as yours and returned to you. This is a simple process where a tiny chip is inserted under the animal’s skin. Dogs and cats rarely display discomfort while this procedure is being done. Microchips can be inserted by any veterinarian in Canberra, as well as by the RSPCA or by Domestic Animal Services (DAS). If you wish to get your dog microchipped by DAS, contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81. It is important to keep your contact details up to date (or put someone you trust as an emergency contact) to help make sure you can be reunited with your pet if they become lost. Microchipping is a legal requirement of dog ownership in the ACT, and dogs that have not been microchipped may be seized by Domestic Animal Services.

Desexing

Desexing your dog is important, and it is a legal requirement that if you do not hold a breeding permit that your dog be desexed if they are over 6 months of age. Keeping a dog that is not desexed (even if you did not know about this law) can attract a fine of up to $8000. It is also unlawful to sell a dog over 6 months of age that has not been desexed. If you breed a litter of puppies from your dog without a breeding licence, your dog and puppies may be seized by Domestic Animal Services.

You must desex your cat if it is over three months of age unless you have a special permit. It is unlawful to sell a cat that has not been desexed if you do not have a permit.

There are a number of agencies that can help you with subsidised veterinary help if you are worried that you cannot afford to desex your dog or cat. The RSPCA is able to offer flexible payment for desexing, such as Centrepay if you receive a Centrelink benefit.

You must desex your cat or dog within 28 days of it coming into your care, unless a veterinary practitioner provides a letter to you that says that de‐sexing the dog or cat would be a serious health risk to the animal.

Public Places

When you are in a public place with your dog, they must be under your effective control. This means they need to be on a leash, or in your line of sight, and you are able to prevent them approaching other people and animals. In most public places in the ACT, except for designated dog parks, you need to take all reasonable steps to ensure that your dog is leashed. If your dog is out in a public place without you and you haven’t taken reasonable steps to prevent this, you could be liable for a fine of up to $2400, and your dog could be seized by Domestic Animal Services.

If your dog defecates in a public place or storm water way, you need to dispose of the waste hygienically, such as by picking it up in a plastic bag and putting it in the bin. Fines of $800 can be issued for not doing this.

Prohibited Places

There are certain locations where it can be against the law to take your pet dog. It is unlawful to take your dog onto the grounds of a primary school, day care centre or kindergarten without the permission of the principal or person in charge of that location. A fine of up to $2400 may apply. It is also unlawful to take your dog onto high school premises during school hours, or to a field or playing area where sport is being played. You may also not take your dog into a public place within 10m of children’s play equipment while children are playing on it, near public barbecues that are being used to cook food, or in designated swimming areas for people near ACT lakes. Fines of up to $1600 may apply.

The Minister is also able to designate other locations as dog‐free zones. These must be marked with signage to let you know you cannot take your dog there, and fines of up to $800 may apply. Dogs that are found in a prohibited area may be seized by Domestic Animal Services.

Cat Containment Areas

Some areas in Canberra are designated cat containment areas, which means that the Minister has declared that cats roaming in an area are a serious threat to native flora or fauna in the area, and cats need to be confined to their keeper’s premises either at all times or during specified times. If your cat is outside your premises in a cat containment area during a time the containment areas is in force, you can be fined up to $1600, and your cat may be impounded. If you can be identified as the owner of the cat, then you must be served with a notice telling you when, where and why your cat was seized, and letting you know what might happen if your cat is not claimed.

Attacks

A dog is considered to harass a person if it exhibits behaviour that could reasonably cause a person who is not provoking the dog, to be frightened that the dog is about to attack them. Hunting or tormenting another animal is also a form of harassment. If a dog you are caring for attacks or harasses a person or another animal, you can be fined up to $8000. If your dog causes serious injury to a person or another animal and you either intended the dog to hurt someone or were reckless about whether or not someone might get hurt, a fine of up to $16,000, or imprisonment for one year, or both, can apply. If your dog is provoked by the person or animal they attack, or if the dog is protecting someone, or if the person who is attacked is on your premises without lawful excuse, these may be defences to prosecution for dog attack/harassment.

If a Court finds that your dog did harass or attack a person or other animal, the Court may make an order that your dog be destroyed, or be subject to any other order the Court thinks is necessary to protect the safety of other people or animals, including declaring your dog to be a dangerous dog. Penalties can apply even if you did not mean for your dog to harass or attack someone, so it is very important to make sure you are in control of your dog and take reasonable steps to make sure they are not posing a risk to anyone. If your dog has been declared a dangerous dog and attacks someone causing serious injury, there can be a penalty of up to $80,000 and/or five years imprisonment. You may also be liable for loss and expense caused to another person by your dog, even if no criminal charges are brought against you. This means you can be sued for expenses incurred by another person because of damage caused by your dog. This includes if your dog attacks another dog and it is injured or killed. You may be liable for vet bills, or replacement of the other animal and possibly other costs. These expenses can be thousands of dollars.

It is a legal requirement that if you are with your dog and they attack someone, that you provide your name, address and contact details and render reasonable assistance if asked. Failure to do so can attract a fine of $8000.

Registrars, ACAT and Control Orders

If your dog has been seized by Domestic Animal Services, they must provide you with a notice of seizure that sets out when, where and why the dog was seized, where it may be claimed, any costs that may apply for release of the dog to you, and the period of time you have to claim the dog before it can be sold or destroyed.

If your dog has attacked someone and caused serious injury to a person, or another animal is killed, the registrar must destroy the dog unless they can be reasonably satisfied the dog is not likely to be a danger to the public or another animal. A registrar may order that a dog be destroyed if the dog causes a less serious injury to another person, or a serious injury to another animal, or is otherwise aggressive and menacing. If the registrar is considering destroying your dog, they must provide notice to you in writing.

If you do not want your dog to be destroyed, it is important to seek urgent legal advice as a strict 7 day time limit exists to apply to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT)for a review of this decision, from the date you received this notice. If the registrar decides not to destroy the dog, they may still issue what is called a control order. They have to give you a copy of this order.

A control order can set out special legal obligations on you to ensure that your dog poses no risk to public safety. If your dog has not been registered, microchipped or desexed it can require that these things are done, as well as anything else the registrar considers necessary for public safety. Breach of a control order can be a very serious matter that could lead to the dog being seized and/or destroyed, and it can also result in a fine of up to $8000. If you have complied fully with a control order so that your dog is safe, it is possible to apply to the registrar to have the control order revoked.

Assistance Animals

Assistance animals are animals which provide special assistance to people who have a disability. They are not pets, but the laws around when an animal is considered an assistance animal can be complex. See Disability Discrimination Factsheet 3 and contact the Disability Discrimination Legal Service at Canberra Community Law if you wish to speak to a lawyer about your assistance animal.

Contact Information & Services

Canberra Community Law- Street Law Program: 02 6218 7900, level 1/21 Barry Dr, Turner ACT 2602 email streetlaw@canberracommunitylaw.org.au

Domestic Animal Services: 13 22 81 during business hours and ask for Domestic Animal Services

Services that can assist with desexing or veterinary help

Pets in the Park: 1st Sunday of every month from 2:00PM ‐ 4:00PM, Pilgrim House, 69 Northbourne Ave, Canberra City – talk to the Early Morning Centre for a referral

Rainbow Paws: Phone 0416 646 050, email info@rainbowpaws.org

RSPCA ACT: Phone (02) 6287 8100, 12 Kirkpatrick Street Weston (off Cotter Road) ACT 2611 Australia Centrepay and Vetpay options available to help with fees for desexing and veterinary assistance.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.

If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on 1800 787 529 or streetlaw@canberracommunitylaw.org.au Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.

© 2019 Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.

Last updated: June 2019.

Listen
Stop

Drug Law

1. What is the difference between illegal, decriminalised and legalised?

If a drug is illegal, it is subject to criminal penalties such as a fine, jail time and a criminal conviction. Ecstasy, cocaine and methamphetamines are examples of illegal drugs.

Decriminalised drugs have some legal penalties removed. However, this does not mean that they are legal. Cannabis is currently a decriminalised drug which means that for possession of a small amount, you may receive a fine without being charged.

If something is legal, no criminal penalties apply, although it may be subject to some conditions. For example, people over 18 years old can legally buy and drink alcohol.

2. How much cannabis can I possess?

Since 31 January 2020, cannabis has been decriminalised in the ACT to allow people over 18 years old to possess up to 50g or 2 plants. Each household is allowed to grow a maximum of 4 plants. It remains illegal to smoke cannabis in public. You also cannot expose children to cannabis or put it where they can reach it.

Possession of any larger amount can result in a maximum penalty of $8,000, and/or 2 years imprisonment.

Any hydroponic or artificial cultivation remains illegal, as will growing on commercial or community property, including nature strips.

Possessing an amount over 50g, selling or sharing cannabis is still illegal.

Additionally, it will remain illegal to possess any amount under federal law and the police may still charge you with an offence under these laws.

This means that in the ACT there is still a risk you may be charged for cultivation and possession under the federal law.

If you have any concerns about how the new laws will operate, we recommend that you seek legal advice.

Note that the new laws only apply in the ACT and do not apply in the surrounding NSW region or the rest of Australia.

3. What is a Simple Cannabis Offence Notice (SCON)?

Currently, if you are under 18 and you are found in possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use, police may issue you with a Simple Cannabis Offence Notice (SCON). The notice comes with a fine of $100 and if you pay within 60 days, it will not be recorded on your criminal history. If you do not pay, it is possible that court proceedings will be brought against you.

4. How long after taking drugs can I drive safely?

Driving with any trace of illicit drugs in your system is illegal.

Drugs can stay in your system for several days depending on the size and potency of the dose and your body’s metabolism. It is possible for drugs to be detected in your system after the effects have worn off.

5. Can I be caught drug driving on prescribed medication?

Yes, some legally prescribed medicines can impair your ability to drive and may result in you being charged with driving under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or drug.

6. Can I lose my licence for drug driving?

Yes, if you are found guilty of drug driving, your licence can be disqualified for up to 3 years as a first-time offender and 5 years as a repeat offender.

7. What are my rights if I’m stopped by police?

For information on Police Powers see our Factsheet 19: “What are my rights if I’m stopped by Police?

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 14 May 2021

Listen
Stop

Disclosing your criminal history to your employer

1. Can an employer ask me about my criminal history?

Yes and no, it depends on the job.

An employer can ask for your criminal history, when you are applying for certain jobs or licences, or working (including volunteering) in certain jobs/roles. However, unless you are required by law (e.g. working with children or people with a disability), you have no obligation to answer a question about your criminal record.

2. When can an employer ask for my criminal history?

It is important to understand that there will be different requirements depending on the kind of job or licence you are applying for. Employers can only ask you to disclose specific criminal record information if there are certain criminal convictions or offences that are relevant to the inherent requirements of the job. That is, will having a criminal record, or certain convictions or offences, mean that you cannot do all of the essential tasks that the job requires.

For example, does the job require you to work with children or other vulnerable people? A child sexual assault conviction will almost certainly stop you from performing such work. An assault conviction will probably be relevant but depending on its seriousness may not stop you from working in that area. Does the job involve direct responsibility for finance or items of significant value? A fraud conviction may be relevant here. Is a criminal record a barrier to obtaining a licence or registration that is essential to the job?

3. Does my employer need my permission to do a criminal record check?

Yes, if an employer requires a criminal record check, they will need your written consent.

4. Are there any exceptions to the information I need to disclose?

In general, you don’t need to disclose a spent conviction, although there are times when you will need to disclose it. A ‘spent conviction’ is where you:

  • were convicted of less than 6 months imprisonment; and
  • have had 10 years being ‘crime free’ (or if you were dealt with as a child when you were convicted, 5 years). This period starts when a sentence of imprisonment is completed, or if no imprisonment is imposed, from the date of the conviction.

5. When do I need to disclose a spent conviction?

You will need to disclose a spent conviction if you are:

  • employed as a justice of the peace, police officer, prison officer, teacher, teacher’s aide, childcare provider or worker, aged care provider or worker, a carer for people with a disability; or
  • employed or work as a volunteer:
    • in relation to the care, instruction or supervision of children, older people or people with a disability
    • at a place that provides care, instructions, supervision, or any other services to these vulnerable people; or
    • by an organisation that provides those services; or
  • applying for a Working With Vulnerable People Card, firearms licence or to be a security guard or casino employee.

It is important that you disclose your criminal history (including spent convictions) where you are legally required to do so.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 14 May 2021

Listen
Stop

I have been discriminated against because of my criminal history, what can I do?

Employment

An employer can seek information about your criminal record where it is relevant to the job in question. Some jobs (for example, those where you work with vulnerable people: children, older people, and people with disabilities) have very strict rules about the criminal record and criminal background of job applicants.

Some employers may even be legally obliged to refuse employment to someone with a particular type of criminal record.

This means that being rejected from a job, or being prevented from obtaining certification required for a job, because of a criminal record will not always mean that you have been discriminated against.

The ACT does have laws dealing with employment discrimination on the basis of spent convictions (see the Street Law ‘Spent Convictions’ factsheet).

Other areas

Laws also prohibit discrimination against you on the basis of a spent conviction by educational facilities, hotels, other accommodation facilities, clubs or people providing goods, services or facilities.

1. Employment

The Australian Human Rights Commission has developed a set of guidelines for the prevention of discrimination in employment on the basis of a criminal record. Here are some key points from those guidelines:

  • Employers should only ask job applicants and employees to disclose specific criminal record information if they have identified that certain criminal convictions or offences are relevant to the inherent requirements of the job
  • Oral and written questions during the recruitment process should not require an applicant or employee to disclose spent convictions unless exceptions to spent conviction laws apply
  • Criminal record checks should only be conducted with the written consent of the individual
  • Information about a person’s criminal record should always be kept private and only used for the purpose for which it is intended
  • The relevance of a person’s criminal record should be assessed on a case-by-case basis against the inherent requirements of the job he or she would be required to do. A criminal record should not generally be an absolute bar to employment of a person.
  • If an employer does take a criminal record into account in making an employment decision, they should only ask questions about a person’s criminal record that relate specifically to the inherent job requirements.

The guidelines can be found in full at https://www.humanrights.gov.au/ publications/human-rights- record.

2. Other Areas

Is it also unlawful for a person to discriminate against you because of your spent conviction or otherwise an irrelevant criminal record by:

  • stopping you from studying at a University or other institution (e.g. Canberra Institute of Technology)
  • stopping you from accessing public premises
  • refusing to give you goods and services, or only giving you goods and services in a particular way
  • refusing you accommodation or only offering you accommodation in a particular way
  • refusing to accept your membership application for a club, or limiting your access to the benefits of being a member of the club.

3. What are my options if I think I have been discriminated against?

3.1. Australian Human Rights Commission

You can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). The Commission will investigate the complaint and try, where appropriate, to resolve it by helping to facilitate discussion between yourself and the employer. This is a free service. If the matter is not conciliated, the AHRC will, in limited cases, report to the Minister if they consider you have been discriminated against.

3.2. ACT Human Rights Commission

Instead of going to the AHRC, you may make a complaint in writing to the ACT Human Rights Commission (ACT HRC) that you have been discriminated against on the basis of an irrelevant criminal record. The ACT HRC may attempt to conciliate the matter. However, you cannot make a complaint to the ACT HRC against the Commonwealth government.

If conciliation is unsuccessful, you may then take your matter to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT). Unlike the ACT HRC, ACAT are able to award you compensation and make other orders, even if you and the person you are complaining about do not agree.

4. Where can I find more information?

  • Call Street Law on 6218 7900 or drop in. We are a free legal service for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
  • Visit www.humanrights.gov.au

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 14 May 2021

Listen
Stop

22. Applying for a Working With Vulnerable People Card when you have a criminal record

In the ACT, you may need a working with vulnerable people (WWVP) card for certain jobs. To apply for a WWVP card you need to:

  1. Complete a WWVP application for registration on the Access Canberra website; and
  2. Attend an Access Canberra Service Centre, located at Belconnen, Dickson, Gungahlin, Tuggeranong or Woden to provide proof of your identity and have your photo taken.

Once you have done this and your application has been approved, you will receive your WWVP Card by post after Access Canberra has assessed your application.

It is an offence to engage in an activity that requires a WWVP card without having a WWVP card. If you do you could be fined up to $8,000 and in situations where you know you should have a WWVP card you could be fined up to $32,000, imprisoned for 2 years or both.

Can I still apply if I have a criminal record?

You are still eligible to apply for a WWVP Card, however you will need to disclose your conviction and non-conviction history (which includes spent convictions) for a risk assessment to be conducted. It is a crime not to disclose your offence, or not to disclose any information relevant to the application. You could be fined up to $8000.

Since February 2021, there are restrictions on obtaining a WWVP Card if you have been found guilty or convicted of certain offences. These restrictions only apply to working/volunteering with children or in an NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) activity. You may still obtain a WWVP for other purposes.

Class A offences (such as murder, assault against a vulnerable person, and sexual offences against a vulnerable person) disqualify you from obtaining a WWVP Card for these purposes. A negative notice due to a Class A offence cannot be appealed.

Class B offences (such as assault, sexual offences, and drug offences) may exclude you from obtaining a WWVP Card for these purposes, unless exceptional circumstances exist. A risk assessment will be conducted.

For more information on disqualifying offences, see Schedule 3 of the Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Act 2011 (ACT).

What is a spent conviction?

A ‘spent conviction’ is where you:

  1. were convicted of less than 6 months imprisonment; and
  2. have had 10 years being ‘crime free’ (or 5 years if you were dealt with as a child when you were convicted).

The ‘crime free’ period starts when a sentence of imprisonment is completed, or if no imprisonment is imposed, from the date of the conviction.

What is the risk assessment?

Access Canberra will conduct a thorough risk assessment of your criminal history (including spent and non-convictions), and any other information relevant to the background screening process. This includes whether you have been registered before or have had a previous negative notice.

You must provide your consent for a risk assessment to take place. If you do not provide your consent, you cannot be registered to work with vulnerable people.

When looking at a criminal offence, the Commissioner will consider:

  • the nature, gravity and circumstances of the offence
  • the relevance of the offence
  • how long ago you committed the offence
  • how old you, and the victim, were at the time of the offence
  • whether your circumstances have changed since the offence
  • your attitude to the offence
  • if any treatment or intervention was undertaken, any subsequent assessment you have had
  • the number of relevant offences; and
  • any submission made by the applicant addressing the above.

Is there anything that can help my WWVP application?

To help your application and to demonstrate that there has been a reduced risk, you can provide supporting evidence that:

  • any mental health issues and/or drug/alcohol abuse is being managed and has improved e.g., treatment plans, professional reports or assessments
  • you have had a change of behaviour and have matured e.g., supports letters from your counsellor, friends, family
  • you have greater social support and stability e.g., support letters from any services that you are engaging with.

A greater weight is given to references from people who have known you for an extended period of time and who may have specific knowledge of the offence(s) and any subsequent change in behaviour or circumstances, or people who are qualified to make these inferences about any change in your behaviour or circumstances.

What happens once I’ve been assessed?

Once your risk level has been assessed, you will be put into one of the following categories:

  1. General registration – You can work in all regulated activities
  2. Conditional registration – You can work in some, but not all regulated activities
  3. Role-based registration – You can only work in the role specified
  4. Negative notice – You cannot work in any regulated activity

What happens if I get a proposed negative notice?

A letter will state that the Commissioner intends to give you a negative notice. The letter will also state:

  1. the reasons for the negative risk assessment
  2. the steps you would need to take for the Commissioner to reconsider the decision; and
  3. if you don’t take steps for reconsideration of the decision, that the Commissioner must give you a negative notice.

If you receive this letter, you will need to ask the Commissioner within 10 working days to reconsider the decision and within 20 working days write a letter asking the Commissioner to reconsider the decision. If you do not send a letter, you will be given a negative notice.

If the Commissioner after reconsidering its decision does not change its decision you have been issued with a negative notice.

If you have been issued a negative notice, you cannot reapply for a WWVP Card for five years after the day you were issued a negative notice.

How much does a WWVP registration cost?

An application fee of $135 applies to people who are employed to work with vulnerable people. There is no fee for volunteers, but the fee must be paid if you are volunteering and also undertaking paid work with vulnerable people.

Contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 for more information.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.

If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on 1800 787 529 or streetlaw@canberracommunitylaw.org.au Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.

© 2019 Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.

Last updated: June 2019.

Listen
Stop

How to write support letters for a client who is going to the Magistrates Court

When a person is facing a criminal charge it can be helpful to their case if they are able to obtain some character references from independent adults (not family members) who can comment on their character and/or personal circumstances. The following is a list of what a court support letter in relation to a criminal charge should include. The letter should:

  • Have the contact name and address of the person writing the letter
  • Have the date the letter is written
  • Be addressed: To the Presiding Magistrate
  • State who you are (your name and occupation and qualifications (if relevant)) and in what capacity you know the person facing the charge (eg friend, boss, doctor, support worker, counsellor etc)
  • If relevant, describe the nature of the organisation through which the person facing the charge knows you (eg describe the support service)
  • State how long you have known the person facing the charge
  • Indicate that you are aware that the person facing the charge has been charged with an offence (be as specific as possible and name the charge eg Driving under the influence of alcohol or a prohibited substance)
  • Provide some comments on the person facing the charge’s personal circumstances and character, without using extravagant language or exaggerating
  • If relevant, provide information about how you can support the person facing the charge in the future (eg continue to provide counselling / support etc)
  • Provide a contact phone number in case the court wants further information.

Other points to remember:

  • Only original documents can be given to the court so please provide an original letter, not a photocopy
  • The court cannot accept a letter written for another purpose. The letter must address the charge the person is facing on the day
  • If providing medical evidence it is not necessary to also comment on the person’s character. A medical letter also does not need to make reference to the charge
  • Don’t suggest outcomes or punishments. Sentencing is the Magistrate’s role.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 14 May 2021

Listen
Stop

Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a process that provides protection to people who cannot repay their debts and cannot reach an arrangement with their creditors. If you are bankrupt, creditors are generally unable to continue or tart action to recover debts against you.

Generally you will be bankrupt for three years but this can be extended for five to eight years.

When you owe people money, you are known as a ‘debtor’. The person you owe money to is known as a ‘creditor’.

You can voluntarily file for bankruptcy, or a court may make an order making you bankrupt if a creditor or creditors to whom you owe $10,000 or more approach or petition the court.

1. What are the implications of bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is not a ‘simple fix’ to financial problems. It is a complex and serious situation with significant consequences and should not be entered lightly. Before declaring bankruptcy you should seek specialist advice.

2. Who else can apply to make me bankrupt?

You can apply for bankruptcy if:

  • You are unable to pay your debts when they are due; and
  • You are present in Australia.

A creditor may apply to make you bankrupt if you owe them $10,000 or more. More than one creditor (people that you owe money to) can do this jointly if you owe them $10,000 or more in total.

3. The cost of filing for bankruptcy

There is no fee to apply to become bankrupt.

4. How do I file for bankruptcy?

To apply for bankruptcy you need to:

  • create an Insolvency Services account;
  • Prove your identity; and
  • Complete and submit a bankruptcy Form through your Insolvency Services account.

5. What happens if I become bankrupt?

If you become bankrupt, most of your debts will be covered and you will no longer have to repay them. There are exceptions (see below). In some cases, your trustee may sell your assets or use compulsory payments to help pay your debts.

  1. When you become bankrupt, most of your property will generally be under the control of a trustee who will manage your bankruptcy.
  2. If you have any significant assets you would expect to have to surrender them for the benefit of your creditors. The creditor will usually recover the following assets:
    1. Houses, land, farms and business premises,
    2. Shares and investments,
    3. Tax refunds for income earned before you became bankrupt,
    4. Proceeds of a deceased estate where the person died before or during your bankruptcy,
    5. Lottery winnings and other competition prizes.
  3. You are still allowed to keep some assets while in bankruptcy:
    1. Most ordinary household items,
    2. Items that are reasonably appropriate for the household,
    3. Tools used to earn certain income,
    4. Some vehicles,
    5. Assets held by you in trust for someone else,
  4. The fact that you have gone bankrupt will affect your credit rating.

6. What happens to my income?

You may earn any amount of income while you’re bankrupt. You can also save any amount during your bankruptcy. However, if your after-tax income exceeds a set amount (https://www.afsa.gov.au/ insolvency/how-we-can-help/indexed-amounts-0), you may have to make compulsory payments. This amount changes with how many dependants you have.

Your trustee can use these payments to contribute to your debts and help pay them off. Compulsory income payments are usually 50% of the amount you earn above the income threshold.

7. How can bankruptcy affect my future?

Bankruptcy can affect:

  • Future income;
  • Future employment;
  • Business;
  • Ability to travel overseas;
  • Ability to obtain future credit;
  • Your rights to take legal action;
  • Your trustee can sell your property; and
  • Your name will appear on the National Personal Insolvency Index which is a public register.

8. When does Bankruptcy end?

Generally after 3 years. However, if an objection is made to your bankruptcy ending you could be bankrupt for 5 or 8 years.

9. Exceptions to bankruptcy protection

Filing for bankruptcy will protect you from certain creditors being able to continue or commence action to recover debts you owe them. However, bankruptcy does not affect certain debts including:

  • fines
  • child support & maintenance
  • HECS & HELP debts (government student loans)
  • debts you incur after your bankruptcy begins
  • unliquidated debts (e.g. a debt where you and your creditor are yet to determine the amount)
  • House mortgages
  • Business loans secured by a business asset
  • Council rates
  • Water rates
  • Debts incurred by means of fraud or fraudulent breach of trust.

For more information see: https://www.afsa.gov.au/insolvency/i-cant-pay-my- debts/what-happens-my-debts-when-im-bankrupt/ debt-comparison-table

10. Where can I get more information?

  • Call Street Law for help on 6218 7900. We are a free legal service for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness
  • Call a financial counsellor such as Care Financial Counselling on (02) 6257 1788
  • Contact the Australian Financial Security Authority on 1300 364 785
  • Contact the National Debt Hotline on 1300 007 007
  • Contact a private lawyer or financial advisor
  • See https://www.afsa.gov.au/

Street Law acknowledges the Australian Financial Security Authority website as a source for much of the information contained in the factsheet.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 14 May 2021

Listen
Stop

What are my rights if I’m stopped by police?

What can police ask you?

The police can ask you for your name and address if they believe you have committed a crime. You must give them this information. It is an offence to provide a false name or address. You can be fined for not complying with the police officer.

The police generally have the power to arrest you if they have reasonable grounds for believing that you have committed or are committing a crime.

1. What information can the police ask me?

  • The police can ask you for your name and address if they have reason to believe you have committed an offence or can give information about a crime that’s been committed. You must give them this information if you are reasonably able to do so.
  • If the police ask you for your name and address, they must tell you why they are asking for your information.
  • You do not have to answer any other questions. It is often best to say nothing if you are unsure whether you should answer any questions.
  • Remember – when you are talking to police nothing is “off the record” and everything you say may be used as evidence in court.

2. What information should I ask the police?

If the police ask for your name and address, you should ask for their details, such as:

  • their name;

and

  • their police station.

You can ask the police officer to write these details down for you. If they refuse to provide this information the police officer can be fined.

3. What can the police ask me to do?

3.1. Move on

The police have the power to direct anyone to leave a public place if they have reasonable grounds to believe that you have recently engaged in or are about to engage in violent conduct in that place. For more information see our “Sleeping or Loitering in a Public Place” fact sheet.

3.2. Search and seize

A police officer has the power to stop, search and detain anyone reasonably suspected of having drugs, something stolen or something relevant to a serious offence on them. A police officer does not need a warrant to conduct this search. However, they must have a factual basis for their suspicion that you have the relevant thing.

If a police officer believes on reasonable grounds that you are in a public place or school with a knife on you, they may conduct an ordinary search of you, conduct a frisk search of you, and may take any knife they find off you.

3.3. Arrest

A police officer generally has the power to arrest you if they believe on reasonable grounds that you have, or are committing, an offence and the arrest is necessary to either ensure that you will appear at court in relation to the offence, to protect the safety of society, to prevent the repetition of the offence or to prevent the destruction of evidence.

If a police officer asks you to go to the police station you should ask if you are under arrest.

  • If you are not under arrest or are not being taken into protective custody you do not have to go.
  • If you are being arrested it is important to ask why. The police officer must tell you the offence you’re being arrested for.

If a police officer asks you to go to the police station you should ask if you are under arrest.

  • If you are not under arrest or are not being taken into protective custody you do not have to go.
  • If you are being arrested it is important to ask why. The police officer must tell you the offence you’re being arrested for.

4. Can the police “strip search” me?

The police can only strip search you if you have been arrested, charged and taken to the police station.

The police generally have the power to arrest you if they have reasonable grounds to believe that you have committed, or are committing a crime.

The police can search you, your bag and your other belongings if you are under arrest and they reasonably believe that you are carrying something related to an offence, or something dangerous.

A strip search can only be conducted where the police reasonably suspect that:

  • you have an item that is evidence in relation to a crime;
  • you have an item that can be seized by police; or
  • a visual inspection of your body will show that you were involved in an offence.

The strip search must be:

  • approved by a police officer with a rank of superintendent or higher;
  • be done in a private area by someone who is the same sex as you; or
  • if no police officer of the same sex is available, the police may ask any other person of the same sex to conduct the search.

If you are under 18, a person whom you trust (like a parent, guardian or another person over 18) must be present.

5. Can the police search my private property?

The police usually need a warrant to enter and search private property such as your home but can undertake a search without a warrant if the police officer has a warrant to arrest someone on the property.

6. Can the police take things from me during a search?

The police can seize any item they find in their search that has something to do with a serious crime or which has been stolen or is dangerous.

If the police take something of yours during a search, they must make a note of what they have taken, and return your items to you after you have been released from custody, providing they don’t relate to an offence.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 14 May 2021

Font
Off On
Size
revert
Content
Color
revert
Links
Color
revert
Skip to content