TGB Partner Tim White looks at current laws and what changes need to be made to curb drunken violence in South Australia.
At our law firm we have had a number of clients who have been victims of late-night violence over the years, which more often than not involves the excessive consumption of alcohol by their attacker. It often ends with serious injury and in some cases, death. Even as I write this, a young man is in hospital with swelling on the brain after being “king hit” in an Adelaide nightclub.
The South Australian Premier, Jay Weatherill, has declared this type of violence as a major issue for the state government, but how do we go about addressing the problem?
The relevant South Australian law is the Criminal Consolidation Act. The difficulty with this Act is it must be established that the offender intended to cause the extent of the harm or death which occurred, and in many cases that isn’t possible. As a consequence, in these circumstances cases often end in a “not guilty” decision by the Court.
For this reason, Western Australia introduced ‘one punch’ laws in 2008 giving judges the power to sentence offenders to a maximum ten years in prison, with reports of a significant drop in injury and death from “king hits” since.
While new laws are not the only answer, higher penalties are sure to be a deterrent to would-be offenders. Further, with an increase in convictions, victims and their families are sure to feel that greater justice has been achieved.
Such changes may also assist victims making claims for compensation in South Australia through civil legal action against either the offender, the establishment where the incident occurred, or even the company responsible for security staff.
Venue owners and security staff have a duty to ensure the safety of patrons in the premises, and they must take a more proactive approach in the prevention of alcohol-fuelled violence. This could be through greater supervision of alcohol consumption and binge drinking as well as drug use.
While alcohol-fuelled violence is a difficult issue, action must be taken to ensure that people can go out at night and feel safe. Too many lives have been lost and far too many life-changing injuries have been sustained. It is time to say enough is enough.
Author: Tim White
TGB is South Australia’s largest injury law firm. For a free initial interview about your potential injury compensation claim, contact (08) 8212 1077.