Today in NSW new mandatory minimum jail terms of up to eight years to deal with drunken violence and so-called “coward’s punches” were introduced. These changes, which affect the role of intoxication in forming intention and/or mitigation of penalty in criminal law, and the role of judicial discretion in sentencing, need careful consideration. Fundamental principles of criminal law should not be sacrificed in the name of political “toughness”; the ripple effect on the rule of law can be severe.
Alcohol fuelled violence is a serious problem in Australian society today. Carefully tailored responses are needed that reflect particular situations including nightclub precincts, domestic violence, access to alcohol, availability of transport, and lack of social supports in regional centres. Detracting from rule of law principles of criminal justice and imposing blanket sentences is no solution to the problem.
Bills are available on NSW Parliament house website:
RoLIA has recently posted a mash up of mandatory sentencing regimes around Australia, and a post discussing relevant issues written for NSW Legal Studies students.