Street violence: Tough sentencing won’t work

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NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell’s proposed mandatory minimum sentencing laws to combat alcohol-fuelled violence won’t work, a legal expert has warned.

Mandatory sentencing is a one-size-fits-all form of justice, which fails to take into account the individual circumstances of each case, says NSW Bar Association president Phillip Boulten SC.

Mr O’Farrell announced on Tuesday that parliament will be recalled early to pass a one-punch law that would carry a 20-year maximum sentence, with a minimum eight-year jail sentence and a 25-year-maximum where drugs and alcohol were involved.

“Mandatory sentencing laws do not deter criminal activity,” Mr Boulten said in a statement.

“They remove discretion from judges. They result in penalties that are often disproportionately harsh.”

But he backed parts of the package that limit trading hours for liquor outlets and lock-outs in central business district venues.

“These sensible, practical measures offer a far more effective means of addressing alcohol-related violent crime, and all of the other problems that accompany binge drinking in public spaces,” Mr Boulten said.

[polldaddy poll=7732383]The NSW Law Society is also concerned about mandatory minimum sentencing, and says it is regrettable the government did not wait for judicial direction on the issue.

“Evidence shows us that mandatory minimum sentencing has no deterrent effects on offending,” Law Society President Ros Everett said.

“US studies have shown us that deterrence arises from fear of being caught, not from the length of the sentence.”

Ms Everett said the government is endeavouring to deal with a number of sensitive issues in its legislative package.

“However, its reliance upon mandatory minimum sentences is unlikely to be effective.”

In addition to the one-punch law, maximum penalties for serious assaults involving drugs and alcohol will increase by two years and mandatory minimums will also apply.

Mr O’Farrell said 1.30am lock-outs would be introduced at licensed premises across an expanded Sydney CBD precinct and there would be an end to drinks at 3am.

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