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Debts of almost $20000 cleared in court

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December 06, 2017

A former heroin addict who racked up more than $20000 in fines had his debts cleared in court.

Yarrawonga resident Shane Bartlett told the court he lived ‘‘off the grid’’ to avoid things such as fines from catching up with him.

Eventually a mountain of unpaid fines, from traffic notices to court fines built up, which forced him to go to court.

As he faced Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on Monday, Mr Bartlett estimated the fines had reached a total of $24481.

Some of the fines included driving while unregistered, failing an oral fluid test and cultivating cannabis.

At 56, with mental health issues and no job, Mr Bartlett’s lawyer Alex McLennan said the fines had reached a critical mass where they would be impossible to pay.

‘‘He is somebody whose history before the court reveals a dysfunctional upbringing,’’ Mr McLennan said.

Some of the fines went all the way back to 1992, prompting Magistrate Louis Hill to ask Mr Bartlett how he avoided the fines for so long.

Mr Bartlett said that since leaving prison for the last time in 1989, he had deliberately lived away from the attention of government and authorities.

‘‘I don’t have electricity bills or water bills in my name,’’ Mr Bartlett said.

Mr Bartlett said he had experienced homelessness and had been addicted to heroin, but had since been clean for several years.

When the magistrate asked why he had not attempted to pay the fines, Mr Bartlett said it was a bit self-centred of himself.

‘‘I didn’t want anything to remind me of the trouble I was in,’’ Mr Bartlett said.

With only a Newstart payment to his name, Mr McLennan asked the magistrate to use the discretion to discharge the fines.

Otherwise his client could face lengthy jail time as a result of being unable to pay.

As of 2015, a day in prison would be equal to $151.67 of the fines, which would have resulted in months of imprisonment to clear the debt.

When the magistrate eventually decided to discharge the debt in full, Mr Bartlett said, ‘‘cool, thank you sir’’.

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