A Victorian learner driver has been fined more than $1600 for driving with her mother in Melbourne’s south-east amid the COVID-19 shutdown.
Hunter Reynolds, 17, drove from her Hampton home to Frankston at the weekend with her mother, when she was pulled over by police and fined for “non-essential” travel.
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“We didn’t think for one minute that we would be doing anything wrong. We weren’t in contact with any person, we weren’t stopping anywhere,” Mrs Reynolds said.
“She (the police officer) said we were too far from home and we would cop a fine, and that Hunter would be the person to receive that fine.”
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Mrs Reynolds said when they questioned the fine, the police officer said police were “smashing it on the roads today”.
“I don’t feel that it was the right decision,” she said.
“If they felt that it was wrong a warning would have sufficed for that particular incident and giving the fine to a 17-year-old was really quite ridiculous.”
The teenager was slapped with a $1652 on-the-spot fine for breaching the state’s stage three restrictions.
She said she was “shocked” by the incident.
“I was just shocked, because I obviously hadn’t done anything wrong, or so I thought. I was just really stressing,” Hunter said.
The pair said they plan to challenge the fine in court.
Victoria Police has issued 108 fines in the past 24 hours to individuals for ignoring COVID-19 measures.
Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton stood by the infringement, but said Assistant Commisioner Bob Hill would review the matter.
“The Chief Health Officer has stated that taking driving lessons is not one of those exemptions, so you can’t be out doing it,” he said.
“Although we are satisfied that it was a lawfully-issued infringement, I have spoken with the Assistant Commissioner for the region and in conjunction with the member we will be looking at whether discretion could or should be applied in this circumstance.”
Protective Services Officers to join police on patrols
At least 160 Protective Services Officers (PSOs) will be redeployed from the public transport network to join police in conducting foot patrols in commercial and shopping centre areas during Victoria’s coronavirus crisis.
Under Operation Shielding, PSOs and police will be deployed in teams to patrol areas normally bustling with people, including the Melbourne CBD, South Yarra, St Kilda and suburban precincts such as Geelong, Dandenong, Box Hill and Doncaster.
Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville and Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said the new model would launch on Thursday, following a rapid decline of public transport usage in the state.
“We have seen significant decline in patronage on our train system – somewhere between 85 and 90 per cent a day,” Minister Neville said.
“There is a lot of pressure on police, both around compliance but also around their day-to-day work and we want to make sure we are using our police resources in the best possible way.”
Dep. Commissioner Patton said PSOs would soon have powers to issue fines for breaches in COVID-19 stay-at-home measures.
“They will have all of the powers that they had and still do have when on the transit network, and that includes powers to arrest under the summary offences act, that includes powers to arrest when they suspect that someone is committing an indictable offence, so they have significant powers.”
The majority of fines issued by Victoria Police for breaches in stay-at-home restrictions include Airbnbs, gatherings and parties and groups of people in cars.
Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville said officers were only enforcing the directives given by the Chief Health Officer.
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