Opinion Number. 1427


COMMONWEALTH FINES AND PENALTIES disposal of pecuniary penalties imposed for offences against Commonwealth law: penalties imposed in exercise of federal jurisdiction for offences against Commonwealth law

Key Legislation

Post and Telegraph Act 1900: WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY ACT 1905: Judiciary Act 1903 s 68

The Secretary, Postmaster-General

The Secretary, Postmaster-General’s Department, has forwarded the following Memorandum for advice:

  • In reply to your memorandum of the 17th August, 1927,1 in connection with the question which has arisen regarding the authority under which fines and costs are claimed by this Department, I have to advise that my memorandum of 4/8/27 stated that the ‘State Auditor’ had raised the question owing to the refusal of the Clerk of the Peterborough Local Court to remit to this Department fines and costs in connection with 5 cases recently heard at the Peterborough Police Court.
  1. In the Post and Telegraph Act it is clearly stated that fines and costs under that Act shall be paid to the Postmaster-General, but no such provision is made in the Wireless Telegraphy Act, and, unless we can quote to the State Police Court officials some authority for demanding fines and fees, it is probable that no further remittances will be received in respect of fines and costs awarded in the State Police Courts. As mentioned in my memorandum of 4/8/27, I am informed that a Commonwealth Act regarding this matter exists, and would be glad if the number and section of the Act were forwarded so that same may be communicated to the State Auditor General and Clerks in charge of Police Courts. I might mention that no difficulty has been experienced in collecting the fines and costs prior to the Clerk at Peterborough raising the question and asking for our authority for collecting same.

The following letter in regard to the matter has been received from the Premier of South Australia:

With reference to the disposal of fines and penalties inflicted under Commonwealth Acts and Regulations, I desire to ask that a direction may be given regarding the disposal of fines and penalties imposed under the Wireless Act and Regulations made thereunder, in order that instructions may be given in all Courts of Summary Jurisdiction in this State.

So far as I am aware, no legislation of a general character has been passed in regard to the disposal of pecuniary penalties imposed for offences against Commonwealth law. Where such penalties are imposed by State courts, they are imposed in the exercise of federal jurisdiction conferred by section 68 of the Judiciary Act.

As the penalties are imposed, in the exercise of federal jurisdiction, for offences against Commonwealth law, it seems reasonable to infer that, in the absence of any express provision, the penalties should be paid to the King for the use of the Commonwealth.

This view is apparently accepted by the Premier of South Australia, but the State authorities appear to be in doubt as to the proper officer to receive the penalties on behalf of the Commonwealth, and I suggest that a direction on this point should be given as requested in the Premier’s letter.

[Vol. 23, p. 445]