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The crime of criminalising everyday life: the rule of law discarded in Victoria's COVID-19 response

Public health Infectious diseases COVID-19 Pandemics Disease management Criminal law Victoria

The criminal law was the main instrument employed by the Victorian government to force Victorians to comply with the COVID-19 lockdowns. More than 50,000 normally law-abiding Victorians were subjected to criminal sanctions for breaches of pandemic restrictions.

The criminal law is society’s harshest form of condemnation and strongest instrument of coercion. It must only be used as a last resort for serious wrongdoing. Imposing criminal sanctions on Victorians for engaging in everyday activities, such as sitting in public places; being out after dark, playing sport and congregating with more than two people is arguably the greatest overuse of the criminal law in a democracy in recent history.

This report argues that the criminal law should never again be used as a blunt instrument of oppression to achieve health objectives.

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