With alcohol related violence remaining a prominent issue of debate in the media and whether new ‘king-hit’ legislation will be introduced nationally. Earlier in the year State governments were subject to frequent criticisms over their seemingly relaxed stance to alcohol related violence. The result of these criticisms are stricter penalties for anyone convicted of killing someone while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Prior to the State government’s adopting these new laws, offenders involved in fatal drunken altercations could typically argue for a sentencing of manslaughter, receiving a lesser sentence. Most people have had their fair share of arguments, which under the effect of alcohol tend to escalate. Where these altercations resulted in death, provocation provisions would allow the offender to claim that the death was caused in the heat of the moment as a result of being suddenly provoked. Successfully showing this would result in being sentenced for manslaughter, as opposed to murder. No longer is this the case, State governments have taken a ‘no excuses’ stance on alcohol fuelled violence and many states no longer have a provocation defence. Queensland are an exception to this but it remains to be seen whether courts will accept the defence for alcohol related violence.
The Queensland premier told Parliament “the message is clear: the community wanted something done about the violence and the culture that creates it.” This is a reaction to the case of Thomas Kelly, an 18 year old boy killed on a night out after being randomly punched has fuelled the media scrutiny over current laws. The original five year sentence for his attacker was seen by many as unsatisfactory and this prompted the New South Wales government to introduce new legislation. The new laws impose an eight year minimum and 25 year maximum for anyone who fatally punches the victim while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Queensland has also followed in implementing the new laws with attackers facing a life sentence. While not all states have adopted this legislation, it is only a matter of time before parliaments concede to public demand and raise the punishment. It’s important to understand the repercussions next time you decide to have a night out.
By Yianni Stergou