The societal and legal issue of alcohol fueled violence and ‘one punch’ assaults has led to legislative change in a number of jurisdictions.

This post brings together relevant information about current and proposed ‘one punch’ laws in Australia. Click on the links below to view material for the relevant jurisdiction:

There has been some academic exploration of the issue more broadly. Julia Quilter of the University of Wollongong discusses  the issues in NSW   in her 2014 paper on one punch laws and the implications for NSW Criminal Law. Liam Burke in the University of Queensland Law Review analyses the historical data in his paper examining assaults in Queensland in 2006-2009. Sue Erickson, Assistant Parliamentary Counsel in Darwin wrote a short explanation of the law in the Northern Territory and Western Australia in 2012.

New South Wales

Recent ‘one punch’ alcohol fueled assaults and community concern about an escalation in violence in the CBD/Kings Cross area of Sydney in 2013/14  led to the NSW Government introducing a new offence of assault causing death.


The Queensland Government has recently introduced the Safe Night Out Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 which includes a new criminal offence of unlawful striking causing death.

  • The Safe Night Legislation Amendment Bill 2014  was passed by the Queensland Parliament on the 26th of August and adds a new section 302A to the Criminal Code which provides that a person who unlawfully strikes another person to the head or neck, causing the death of the other person, is guilty of crime and introduces a minimum non-parole period for manslaughter offences of 80% of the head sentence or 15 years
  • Crime Stoppers in Queensland is part of a community campaign to raise awareness of the issue in Queensland
  • An article in the Sunshine Coast Daily discusses a number of cases of ‘one punch’ assaults in 2014.

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT Government have stated, as of August 2014,  that they are not planning to legislate specifically for ‘one punch’ assaults.

Northern Territory and Western Australia

  • Section 161A of the Criminal Code Act (NT) defines conduct involving a violent act as conduct involving the  direct application of force of a violent nature to a person such as a direct hit, with a maximum sentence of 16 years imprisonment
  • Section 281 of the Criminal Code Compilation Act 1913(WA) sets out an offence that states that “if a person unlawfully assaults another who dies as a direct or indirect result of the assault, the person is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment for 10 years”


Recently the Victorian government has introduced the Sentencing Amendment (Coward’s Punch Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2014 (Vic)    in which manslaughter – single punch or strike – is taken to be a dangerous act under a new section 4A of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and amends the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) to introduce a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years for manslaughter and gross violence offences under certain circumstances. The Victorian Parliament is scheduled to vote on the Bill on the 2nd of September 2014.

South Australia

There has been considerable discussion in South Australia about the impact of ‘one punch’ assaults and intoxication and possible legislative responses to the issue.

~ Jackie

jackie_twitter_pic Jackie Charles is RoLIA’s Education Officer. Join the discussion about rule of law issues with Jackie on Twitter @JCharRoL.