Legal Assessment- Alcohol and Violence By: Hatem, A and Ziad
The topic of law reform is beyond just the definition of changing the law, however it is the process in which the law is modified and shaped over time to better reflect the changing social and cultural values that we deem are important. The law cannot stay the same, as the primary function of the legal system is to respond to the changing social values and hence why law reform is still relevant to our society. The overall importance of law reform can be perceived with the aim of enhancing justice and fairness through the introduction of new legislations. The topic of Alcohol and violence has been taking seriously by the NSW legal system, with the introduction of several new legislations the total extent in which the law has reformed regarding alcohol and violence is significant.
One hit-punches also known as King hits has prompted the NSW legal system to re-adjust the current laws covering these type of punches. The dangerous nature of King hits has resulted in the increase of deaths within our society and as result of this has created a negative image of the typical Australian tradition of hanging out in the pub with a few mates watching the footy. Due to the time consuming nature of making new legislations, lawmakers will find it difficult to make new laws dealing with one punch hits swiftly enough and therefore not effectively stopping these acts. The failure of existing law in dealing with one punch hits has been a major catalyst in prompting the NSW legal system to reassess their current laws. The media will often bring to light the events related to one punch hits. Considering that the media is a powerful toll in reaching out to people it can heavily influence the public choices and perspectives about the subject, the media can also generate public interest or outrage about a case which can pressure the governments to act on a new legislation. The emergence of new technologies has also created the need for reform in this topic. One punch hit events can now easily be recorded and uploaded to social media with a few clicks therefore bringing it to the public’s attention and forcing the legal system to make new legislations. The Thomas Kelly case proved how dangerous King hits can be, Thomas Kelly was randomly punched by a drunk person while walking with his girlfriend in kings cross 2012, he died 2 days after being hit. The Thomas Kelly case which brought large media attention further propelled the need for new legislations dealing with the perpetrators of king hits. Kieran Loveridge the perpetrator of the act was sentenced to 10 years and 2 months in prison.
The media plays a critical role in reporting major events currently happening in our society, it also reports on major inconsistences present in our legal system. The media can play a forward role in bringing changes to the law, the main impact of media on society is the fact that it can heavily change and influence the publics opinion on the issue of king hits. Considering that every household currently obtains some sort of technological device the media can easily address the issue of king hits to the public by simply just mentioning it on the news. The media with all its power can easily advocate for law reform, this can be done by writing numerous reports and newspapers on the failure of existing law which will scrutinise the current law covering king hits. The Airing of several types of TV programs such as the current affair have also brought about the needed change in laws for king hits. Such programs which are aired to millions of people usually question the legal system, for example these programs can question weather the legal system will favour the accused instead of the victim. This is purposefully done by the media in order to mingle with the emotions of the viewers to create a sense of uncertainty with their legal system and start to advocate for law reform. Through an article released by the Sydney morning herald on Kieran Loveridge’s sentence for killing Thomas Kelly, it brought to life weather Kieran should be sentenced for a higher number in prison instead of just 5 years. Within 3 months the O’Farrell government due to public pressure implemented strict mandatory laws for violent offences fuelled by alcohol. As a result of this Kieran was sentenced for 10 years and 2 months instead of 5 years. This article provided a prime example on how public pressure can influence the law. Another report released by ABC online stated that king hit attacks should be referred to as coward punches after a teen was left in a coma. Due to public pressure and pressure from the family of Daniel Christie the NSW police agreed to use to term of Coward Punches instead of King Hits. The effective nature of these type of media reports has successfully prompted the creation of new legislations which have helped the victim’s families cope with their loss better.
The topic of Alcohol/violence has been taken seriously by the NSW government, as the legal response to the death of Thomas Kelly was a four-phase whole of government response meaning actions will go beyond just changing the laws and include all areas of government such as transport and policing. The first phase was for the NSW office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing to conduct an audit. The audit began on 18 July 2012 and started with the scrutiny of the responsible service of alcohol registers of all 58 late-night trading venues in kings cross. This audit was carried out with a wide media coverage ensuring that kings cross remained under the media spotlight. In the second phase the government introduced new liquor restrictions to the parliament. New restrictions were also placed on licensed venues in the kings cross Precinct. These restrictions limited the amount and type of alcohol to be sold after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as the implementation of CCTV conditions that covered entries and exists for venues operating after midnight. The third phase saw the NSW premier Barry O Farrell announce a campaign aimed at Cleaning up the Cross, which would see better transport links, greater policing on Friday and Saturday night, and liquor licensing reforms. The fourth phase which spanned from September 2012 to October 2013 saw the introduction of several key pieces of legislations. As part of the reform package announced on 21 January 2014 (NSW) Premier Barry O Farrell said that the government would consider new laws to deal with violent and fatal assaults. Along with the Liquor Act reforms, amendment to the crimes Act 1900 (NSW) were presented to parliament at the end of the month and new legislation was passed that year. In addition the crimes and other legislation amendment assault and intoxication Act 2014 (NSW) included the following: Mandatory sentencing for one punch assaults, an increase of two years on maximum sentences where the offender is affected by alcohol or drugs, when determining sentences courts will no longer consider drugs and alcohol as a mitigating factor. Effectively these new legislations which were passed by the parliament have to some extent mulled the violence in the Kings cross precinct. These new legislations were put into effect during the sentencing of Kieran Loveridge, due to the evidence found of him drinking, his total sentence was increased to 10 years almost double of the original imprisonment. Another case we these legislations were put into effect was the Shaun McNeil case, Shaun had delivered a fatal punch to Daniel Christie, he was later found guilty of Manslaughter in the NSW Supreme Court 2015. He was imprisoned for 10 years. The Berry Lyttle case questioned these new legislations that cover one-punch hits. Berry Lyttle punched his brother after they had an argument. Considering that Berry’s alcohol reading was low the new legislations did not apply to him however he was charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm. The dangerous nature of king hits has prompted the courts and parliaments to constantly change the current laws covering them which has effectively helped in dealing with alcohol and violence.
The precarious nature of king hits and there negative effect on society is what has ultimately lead to the creation of new legislations. The media will often heavily influence public opinions on the topic of king hits, this can be done by publishing newspaper articles. The courts and parliaments are major mechanisms of law reform as they both bring about new legislations. The NSW government responded to one hit punches by releasing a four phase plan aimed at mulling the violence present in the kings cross area.