Mandatory laws fighting words

AS of this weekend, if you get into a fight while drunk, or under the influence of drugs, and scratch or bruise someone you could go to jail for a minimum of two years.

Premier Barry O’Farrell’s Crimes and Other Legislation Amendment (Assault and Intoxication) Bill 2014, which was pushed through Parliament on Thursday, introduced minimum mandatory jail sentences for offences committed while under the influence of alcohol or drugs such as assault, reckless grievous bodily harm, reckless wounding and affray. 

These offences cover anything from spitting to scratching, slapping and breaking a person’s nose. 

Premier O’Farrell needs to come across as tough but it may come back to bite him, says political expert and associate professor Dominic O’Sullivan.

Professor O’Sullivan predicted the legislation could become unpopular if parents realised their children could be  locked up for years for pub fights. 

“I think there will be a backlash, especially if they come from the Premier’s own electorate,” he said.

“It is known that mandatory sentencing does not deter people from committing offences, but the policy that is needed is the one that deals with the cause of the problem ... those policies tend not to be as popular.”

Part of the legislation is the introduction of a definition for intoxication, which is now determined as the same for high-range drink-driving, 0.15. 

Orange solicitor Michael Madden said the laws were a “scary” breach of the constitution and before long police could have the power to breath test for any crime committed. 

“There’s no cut-off for drugs ... a person who smoked cannabis six weeks ago and gets in a scuffle could be given a minimum jail sentence,” he said. 

Mr Madden said he disagreed with the Premier’s decision to remove alcohol as a mitigating factor and turn it into an aggravating factor.

“A person who is under the influence is not going to think of minimum mandatory sentences and think, ‘Oh, I better not do that’,” he said. 

“It has to remain a mitigating factor or it takes away all the discretion of the court.”

Mr Madden said the only way to stop coward punches was education.

He said more focus on ads like the one featuring boxer Danny Green highlighting the impacts of a punch to the head would help. 

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop