The NSW Council for Civil Liberties opposes the NSW Government’s proposal for mandatory sentencing for “one-punch” assault causing death with drug and alcohol related factors.
The proposed new laws will mean that persons found guilty of drug and alcohol fuelled “one-punch” assaults causing death will be subjected to a mandatory minimum sentence of 8 years in jail with a maximum of 25 years. Mandatory sentences for “one-punch” assaults have already been enacted in West Australia and the Northern Territory.
The NSWCCL opposes mandatory sentences because they prevent the court from taking into account all relevant circumstances surrounding the offence, the offender and the victim. This view has previously been stated in various submissions by the CCL, including a submission to the NSW Sentencing Council’s review of Penalties for sexual assault offences in 2007 and a submission on the Commonwealth’s Migration Amendment (Removal of Mandatory Minimum penalties) Bill 2012.
The CCL agrees that alcohol and drug factors should be taken into account in sentencing, although not necessarily as an aggravating factor.
Sentencing requires consideration of various factors, including prior record, age, mental illness, hardship and remorse, as well as circumstances of the assault. Mandatory sentencing inhibits the proper consideration of such factors.
There is also little evidence to say that mandatory sentencing will deter this type of reckless assault. The CCL believes the Government should focus more on achieving better licensing laws, higher fines for venues and more policing in trouble areas.
For further comment:
Stephen Blanks, President, NSW Council for Civil Liberties 0414 448 645
Also refer to Committee Member Nicholas Cowdery AM QC's article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 January.