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States take different approaches to nightclub Fights

While NSW has enacted “one punch” laws that carry minimum sentences, ACT is focusing on changing the behaviour of nightclub owners

Different states take different approaches to the brawls that break out in nightclubs. Some states try to reduce nightclub violence by imposing strict conditions on licences. That puts the burden on the nightclub’s owner to control the behaviour of patrons. Other states focus on punishing the people who fight.

The NSW Approach to one punch law

The legislature in NSW enacted a “one punch” law that imposes a mandatory minimum 8-year prison sentence (and a maximum of 25 years) when an intoxicated person intentionally and unlawfully hits another person and causes that person’s death.

The NSW law was triggered by the death of Thomas Kelly and the sentencing of Kieran Loveridge. The law is intended to prevent deaths caused by “sucker punches” but the law applies to any death caused by fighting if the person who caused the death was not acting in self-defense.

The law (sections 25A and 25B of the Crimes Act 1900) is controversial. Nicholas Cowdery, the former Director of Public Prosecutions in NSW, predicted that the “one punch” law will “be catastrophic for the criminal justice system in NSW.” He questions why someone who makes a sober decision to throw a punch that results in death is not subjected to the same mandatory minimum sentence that applies to intoxicated fighters.

Cowdery expects most people who are charged with the offence to proceed to trial because they have nothing to lose by taking their chances with a jury. That will put additional burdens on the NSW criminal justice system with no corresponding benefit. There is no evidence that mandatory minimum sentences deter people (especially intoxicated people) from committing crimes.

The ACT Approach to one punch laws

The ACT Attorney-General, Simon Corbell, understands that people who get drunk do not think about potential penalties before they throw punches. That’s why he advocates changing ACT liquor laws to focus on preventing violence rather than punishing it.

One proposal would change the time for making a last sale of alcohol from 5:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. Another would change closing time to 4:00 a.m. but impose extra fees on businesses that sell alcohol between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. A final proposal would retain the 5:00 a.m. closing time but charge extra fees for liquor sales made between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

The extra fees would serve two purposes. First, they might discourage owners from staying open after 3:00 a.m., which is when most fights occur. Second, increased revenue from fees paid by liquor vendors that stay open would be used to fund extra police officers and other public-safety resources.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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