Nightlife violence has been a hot issue for some time now. In January, New South Wales introduced a mandatory eight-year prison term who anyone who fatally punches another whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It also included other efforts to curb violence, such as strict conditions on bars and clubs in the Kings Cross and CBD areas, including 1:30am lockouts and the inability to supply alcoholic drinks after 3:00am.
In Queensland, the Government is proposing new laws and programs in an effort to lower the occurrence of alcohol and drug related violence in and around licensed venues and in public.
A raft of changes to legislation are proposed in the Governments Safe Night Out Strategy, a report which details a dual education and penalty driven response to nightlife violence and drug use. Some of the proposed changes include:
1. A new offence, entitled unlawful striking causing death. This offence will be punishable by a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, of which the offender will be required to serve 80% before being eligible for parole. Mr. Newman has stated that this new offence will substantively similar to a manslaughter charge, however “for example, take away the excuse for accident”.
2. Intoxication will be removed as a consideration in sentencing.
3. Serious Violent offenders, whose offence occurred whilst in public will be require to serve at least 80% of their sentence prior to being eligible for parole.
4.Courts will be empowered with the ability to hand out lifetime bans from licensed premises.
5.Offenders will be required to undergo community service as part of their sentence.
6.Linking police information with ID scanners to enforce banning orders.
7.Increasing the maximum penalty for aggravated serious assaults of public officers, such an ambulance officers, from 7 to 14 years imprisonment.
8.Increased penalties for the use of anabolic steroids.
9.The on-the-spot fine for causing a public nuisance will increase to $660, with a maximum fine of $2,750 or six months imprisonment.
10.The on-the-spot fine for refusing to leave licensed premises with increase to $550, with a maximum fine of $5,500.
11.The penalty for obstructing police will increase to $6,600 or 12 months imprisonment.
These proposed changes will accompany the implementation of ‘sober safe centres’ as well as Safe Night Precincts. Unlike New South Wales, no mandatory lockout or increased restrictions on the sale of alcohol have been proposed for venues.
A “sober safe centre’ will be trialed in the Brisbane CBD, where police will be able to detain a person who is heavily intoxicated, at risk of harm, and behaving in a violent or anti-social manner.
Safe Night Precincts will be established in high volume, late night trading areas. A local board of community, business, state and local government representatives will govern the precinct. The local boards will manage and plan for the area, to address issues such as transport, lighting, and CCTV. They will also be provided with funding for services to assist in the resting and recovery of partygoers. Precincts will be formed in Cairns, Townsville, Airlie Beach, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Ispswich, and Toowoomba.
The strategy will be open to public consultation for a month, and it will be trialed for one year before being reviewed. Members of the public can view and respond to the strategy here.