Punch laws a blow to justice: solicitor

A MANDATORY minimum sentence of eight years jail for fatal one punch attacks will not curb alcohol-related violence and takes away the discretionary powers of the court, says one Orange solicitor. 

Solicitor Michael Madden said the move by Premier Barry O’Farrell to introduce a range of legislation targeted at alcohol and drug related violence was a typical response from a government pandering to shock jocks. 

The O’Farrell government unveiled a package of laws on Tuesday aimed at curbing one-punch attacks, including a new offence for fatal assaults involving alcohol and drugs, carrying a mandatory minimum sentence of eight years in jail and a maximum of 25 years.

Mr Madden said it essentially took away the defence of manslaughter and replaced it with the same sentencing restrictions as a murder charge, so a person who unintentionally killed someone from one punch would be treated the same as a person who intended to kill someone.

He said the problem was that it took away the mitigating and aggravating  factors in any incident.

 “There is no statistics to suggest mandatory minimum sentences work to decrease crime,” he said. 

“What is happening now compared to before is there is, in many cases, alcohol mixed with drugs as well and that’s where the problem is.”

OUR SAY: RESPONSIBLE SERVING OF ALCOHOL IS CRUCIAL

Premier O’Farrell said the measures introduced would remove voluntary intoxication by drugs or alcohol as a mitigating factor when determining sentences, meaning it would no longer be an excuse. 

But Mr Madden said in any case that came before the courts, there was always evidence on both sides and the proposed legislation took  that away. 

“In the constitution there is a separation of powers, the law is separate from the state and it should be,” he said. 

“At the moment you’ve got all the evidence presented by the [Daily] Telegraph ... people are being fuelled into their reactions.

“In a court the jury hears all the evidence.”

The charge of manslaughter which can be used for offences like the one-punch fatal attack carried a maximum sentence of 25 years in jail.

 nicole.kuter@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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