New Law to Restore Charity Donations to Courts
Tuesday, 16th April 2013 at 12:11 pm
The Victorian Government will introduce legislation into Parliament that will allow charities to continue to receive proceeds from court-ordered donations.
This follows a recent Supreme Court ruling that held that the long-standing practice of courts requiring offenders to make a donation to the court fund or to a charity was invalid.
The Melbourne City Council won its appeal against an August 2011 Magistrates’ Court sentencing decision which obliged an individual who pleaded guilty to breaching the Food Act to make a donation to St Vincent De Paul’s food van service.
Attorney General Robert Clark said the new legislation would again allow courts to direct money to charitable or community service organisations.
“It has long been the practice of the Magistrates’ Court to require offenders to make a payment directly, or through the court, to an organisation that provides a charitable or community service,” Clark said.
“This practice dates back many years, to when contributions were ordered to the court ‘poor box’.
“These donations have supported the vital work of the Salvation Army, the St Vincent de Paul Society and the Melbourne City Mission, among many others.”
The legislation will again allow courts to include a condition in an adjournment undertaking requiring the offender to make a payment directly to an organisation that provides a charitable or community service, or to the court for payment to such organisations.
“The legislation also makes clear that such payment conditions should not be treated as a substitute or replacement for a fine,” Clark said.
The legislation will also validate all past court orders that have required donations to charitable or community service organisations, or to the court fund.
PilchConnect has supported the Court Fund, appearing as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the case that threatened its continuation, Brittain v Mansour, last year.
Director of PilchConnect, Nathan MacDonald, said it's encouraging that the Government has responded quickly to address the significant ramifications of the Mansour decision.
“We appeared as amicus because this is a sentencing practice we believe ought to be defended and we are pleased that the Government agrees,” MacDonald said.
PilchConnect urged the Government to address the outcome of the Mansour decision earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Victorian welfare peak body, Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) has welcomed what it has called the Victorian Government's "swift intervention".
"Court-ordered donations support the important work of community organisations that assist Victorians and this has seen millions of dollars directed towards frontline services over many years," VCOSS acting chief executive Carolyn Atkins said.
"There are generally over 3,500 “poor-box” orders in Victoria each year – enabling community organisations to deliver key services to some of the most vulnerable in our community.
"The suspension of the practice had threatened the viability of a number of these services.
"The Victorian Government has done the right thing in restoring the ability of judges and magistrates to make court-ordered donations and VCOSS welcomes the continuation of this long-standing practice.
"The court-ordered donations system is also a meaningful way for people to make reparations to any harm or damage they may have caused for relatively minor offences and it promotes a more responsible and connected community."