ACT News


ACT politicians warn against a 'knee-jerk reaction' to latest one-punch assault

Canberra's leaders on both sides of politics have condemned the most recent one-punch assault in Civic, but have cautioned against a "knee-jerk reaction" when it comes to tougher laws to combat drunken violence. 

Footage of an offender punch a young man to the ground outside Academy nightclub on Bunda Street in the early hours of Sunday has reignited public debate over alcohol-related violence in the city's most popular entertainment precinct.

It prompted Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey to call for greater powers for police to issue move-on notices to agitated revellers, and for the territory's most violent venues to be "named and shamed" and subject to tougher penalties and restrictions.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell said he was appalled by the "violent and senseless attack".

He said the government would consider all proposals put forward in the recent liquor law review, including changes to operating hours and outlet density, to combat alcohol-related violence.

"This will include looking at the impacts of the changes to operating hours in the Sydney CBD implemented earlier this year," Mr Corbell said.


He said the territory government would also consider other suggestions including those made by Mr Hinchey. 

"The government will look at how measures like a 'risk rating' or 'traffic light' system of rating for bars or nightclubs could work," Mr Corbell said.  

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson described the latest assault as "violent and reprehensible".

But he said there should not be "a knee-jerk reaction" and a range of matters needed to be considered, including whether one punch legislation introduced in NSW and Victoria would be appropriate for the ACT.

He also cited concerns police in Civic had been "dangerously understaffed" in the past, and said they needed to be adequately resourced.

"Lockouts are not the answer, we don't need to shut down Civic because of an irresponsible minority," Mr Hanson said.

Police last year formed the Regional Targeting Team, which consists of 24 police dedicated to Civic, as part of a sustained effort to drive down alcohol-related crime. 

An ACT Policing spokeswoman said police had adequate resources but supported any practical measures to reduce alcohol-related violence. 

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said police had told her the vast majority of nights in the CBD were "problem-free".

"The fact is police believe to a large extent that Civic is safe and that they're not after any increased powers or resources at this point in time," she said. 

"I think it's something we have to keep under active consideration. If we see a spike in incidents that requires further government intervention then we'll look at that." 

Ms Gallagher said lockouts often created extra problems for police who had to deal with more people out on the streets.

"The issue is, how do you regulate a system that affects everybody for the problems of a few?"

Clubs ACT chief executive Jeff House said there needed to be greater focus on areas outside clubs and bars where people often congregated if they were refused entry, as that was often where violent incidents took place. 

"The nightclubs are doing the right thing rejecting violent people from their venues, but these people are then standing around with groups in varying levels of inebriation," he said.

He called for a discussion between politicians, licensed venues owners and police to discuss targeted solutions.

Australian Hotels Association ACT general manager Brad Watts said the weekend assault highlighted the need for police to enforce on-the-spot fines for offenders who were drunk outside clubs and bars.

"These measures must be fully explored and enforced before any further regulations are considered or imposed on licensed venues," he said. 


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