Swear in public and be charged upto $500

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Swearing has been illegal in NSW since 2007 and is frequently part of the trifecta of infringement notices: the original offence, offensive language and offensive conduct. Now the NSW government’s legislation to tackle alcohol-fuelled violence has passed a law to increase fines for swearing in public which are triple in value than before. Last year in NSW alone, police recorded more than 4,000 incidents of offensive language.

Police officers can now issue on-the-spot fines of up to $500 to anyone who uses offensive language, more than triple the current penalty of $150, although, if you are on the train and fined by a Transit Officer, the penalty can be $400.

The $500 fine is the highest on-the-spot penalty for swearing in Australia. Police in Victoria can issue $240 fines, and in Queensland swearing will cost just $100.

While there is no official ”swear list” if the F and C words are used aggressively, and in a public space such as near a school, a main street or in a bar people can be issued on-the-spot fines if caught by the police.

Minority groups, particularly Aboriginal Australians, the homeless and the mentally-ill, are statistically much more likely to be the subject of offensive language charges. The NSW Ombudsman  found  that Aboriginal people received 14% of all offensive language fines issued in the period between 1 November 2007 and 31 October 2008, despite the fact that they made up only 2.1% of the NSW population. The Ombudsman also found that Aboriginal recipients were unlikely to challenge the fines in court, perhaps arising out of a deep distrust of the legal system, or an inability to afford legal help. And if a recipient can’t, or won’t pay the fine, such refusal may bring about fine enforcement measures, leading to an unpleasantly cosy relationship with the criminal justice system.

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