UK & World News
Crackdown On Alcohol-Fuelled Violence In Oz
Some of the world's toughest alcohol laws are being introduced in Sydney, Australia, after a spate of deaths of young men caused by drunken violence.
The high-profile killing of 18-year-old Thomas Kelly in 2012, in a random one-punch attack, caused much soul searching among the Australian public and focused politicians on how best to deal with alcohol-fuelled brutality.
His parents were outraged when his attacker received four years in jail for their son's manslaughter.
Now a controversial and unprecedented new law has been created in the state of New South Wales which sees a fatal one-punch offence carry a minimum eight-year jail sentence if committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
And now pubs and clubs in Sydney's nightlife district, many of which are open 24 hours, will see 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks.
Michael McEwen, 23, was hit in a one-punch attack (which some local media and politicians have now dubbed a "coward punch") in Sydney at the end of last year. He was close to death and in a coma for days.
His father Robert told Sky News: "I actually started going over the eulogy, asking 'what am I going to say about him?' at the funeral, all those sorts of things were going through my mind."
Talking about the new licensing laws, he said: "It's going to take a long time but I think we only have one choice and that is to change the culture, to change our society."
Michael survived and is now making progress, having to learn to walk again after brain surgery.
Also being considered are mandatory minimum and longer maximum sentences for serious alcohol-fuelled assaults, and new powers allowing police to administer drug and alcohol testing to suspected offenders.
"The new measures are tough, and I make no apologies for that," NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell told reporters when the new laws were first announced.
"The fact is, it's not acceptable for people to go out, get intoxicated, start a fight, throw a punch - whether it's a coward's punch or another punch - and think they'll get away with it."
Many legal professionals however are highly critical of the move, saying mandatory sentencing removes all mitigation and extenuating circumstances.
Not only that, Phillip Boulten, President of the New South Wales Bar Association, said: "Most of the studies carried out by academics throughout the world show that mandatory sentencing doesn't play much of a role in reducing the rate of crime."
The effects of the new legislation will be watched closely by other countries, including the UK, which are also grappling with how best to deal with alcohol fuelled violence.
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