Other forms of penalty
The infringement offence system was developed to deal with types of offending which are not considered to require the full extent of criminal process. Infringement offences deal with more than 2.5 million breaches of the law each year, covering an increasingly wide range of conduct. Although the LAC guidelines suggest that the level of any infringement fee should generally be less than $500, there are a number on the statute book which are higher.
Infringement offence fees are set by the legislation – the prosecuting authority has no power to vary the penalty. On payment of an infringement fee, no conviction results. A standard procedure for infringement offences is set out in s 21 of the Summary Proceedings Act 1957, although minor departures from this model can be found in some infringement regimes. Most cases are resolved between the defendant and the prosecuting authority by the payment of the prescribed infringement fee. The court process is only called for where the defendant denies the charge or wishes to make submissions as to penalty. The court will also become involved if the person fails to pay the fee.
Infringement offences are used in the traditional criminal field to deal with high volume, comparatively minor offending, such as traffic breaches. Increasingly, they are also being used as a way to achieve compliance or enforce particular standards of conduct in a range of regulatory regimes; for example, they feature widely in fisheries, environmental and industrial regulation legislation. Upon the enactment of the Financial Markets Conduct Bill, they will also be used in the regulation of securities markets.