Reima Kusla, a wealthy Finnish businessman was fined €54,000 ($83,000 AUD) after driving 15 miles over the speed limit. The police pulled Kusla over and it was only after further assessment of his income that they came to that total.
Finland pioneered the system which was quickly implemented by other Scandinavian countries known as a ‘Day fine’ According to US Legal, a day fine is a structured fine system calculated based on the offenders financial status and the severity of the crime. This system has gained both praise and criticism.
‘[The day fine is a more appropriate fining system] because the economic burden of the fine is felt similarly by both the wealthy offender and the financially disadvantaged offender’ wrote Benedict Bartl in his essay The ‘Day Fine’ Improving equality before the law in Australian sentencing.
The results were surprising. Only 28% agreed day fines would be a good idea, the remaining 72% were content with the current system. The Yes and No’s both had a very similar demographic in gender and income, most of the voters being students. Those working full-time were also more likely to say no.
The day fine was last trialed in 1988 in Staten Island, USA. It received a lot of backlash because the legal mentality at the time was default incarceration. The shift in judicial sanctioning occurred mainly as a result of the overcrowded prison system. The tarriff on fines is now now much higher in order to financially affect more of the driving population. Trialing day fines in Australia, with an adjustment of a cap on the fines would be an interesting concept. Only after trialing the system can we authentically assess if day fines are good for Australia.