LawTalk Blog

Alcohol fuelled violence. Where do you stand with the law?

one punch laws

Fred goes out on a Saturday night with his friends.  He goes out on Hindley Street and drinks so much that he becomes incredibly intoxicated.  As he is walking back from the bar another young man bumps into him causing him to drop and spill all of the drinks he was carrying.  Angry words are exchanged and Fred punches the other young man.  Fred wakes up the next day in police cells and has no recollection of anything that happened the night before.

Every time you turn on the news after the weekend, this seems like a regular occurrence across Australia. 

A national poll shows that more than three in every 10 Australians has been affected by alcohol fuelled violence. The research results show that alcohol fuelled violence is a national problem that can no longer be ignored, according to the "Last Drinks Coalition" of doctors, nurses, paramedics and police officers.

The shocking unprovoked death of king hit victim Thomas Kelly in Sydney's Kings Cross focused attention on alcohol fuelled violence in nightclub districts.  The New South Wales Government has confirmed it will introduce "one-punch" laws to cover situations where an unlawful assault causes death.  The law proposes to double the maximum penalty to 20 years.

Here in South Australia new laws have recently been introduced to try to curb alcohol fuelled violence.  The South Australian Government has introduced a number of new measures, including a lockout, which stops people from entering venues after 3.00 am. The new measures also include a restriction on the sale of some drinks and a ban on glassware after 4.00 am.

So we know it's a problem. We know that the government is trying to do something about it but where does that leave Fred?

In this scenario Fred's state of intoxication was self induced.  Therefore his intoxication is not going to be a defence or an excuse for him assaulting the other young man.  It is a well established principal that self induced intoxication is not a defence to, or excuse for the commission of a crime which is not a crime of "specific intent" (for example, murder).  Nor is it a defence to the charge, that he cannot recall the incident.  Fred voluntarily drank the alcohol to the point of intoxication and therefore the law states he must take responsibility for his own actions.

From my own experience, courts are getting tougher on these sorts of cases.  This is on the basis that sentences need to be not only a personal deterrent to Fred but also a general deterrent on the community to let them know that this behaviour is not acceptable.

As we fast approach the Christmas and Festive season, we urge all South Australians to give due consideration to responsible alcohol consumption by themselves and by their family members and mates.



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