ACT News

Attorney-General Simon Corbell stands firm on one-punch laws

The ACT government has no intention of introducing harsher penalties or mandatory sentences on so-called "one-punch" attacks, Attorney-General Simon Corbell has reaffirmed.

Mr Corbell addressed the territory's judges, magistrates and legal community on Monday, using the platform to argue once again against "hasty" legislative retaliation to unprovoked assaults.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell says the ACT government has no intention of introducing harsher penalties for "one-punch" ...
Attorney-General Simon Corbell says the ACT government has no intention of introducing harsher penalties for "one-punch" attacks. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Graphic CCTV footage of an alleged attack in Civic on New Year's Day reignited community debate over the appropriate response to alcohol-fuelled violence and one-punch attacks.

There followed calls for the ACT to follow NSW and Queensland, which have both introduced new offences penalising such attacks and imposing mandatory minimum sentences.

ACT opposition leader Jeremy Hanson last month proposed new one-punch legislation.

But in a speech to open the 2016 legal year, Mr Corbell reiterated the government's belief that current laws were adequate, and legislation was not the answer.

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"Introduction of mandatory sentences, or a rush to legislate for even tougher criminal penalties is not the answer to these problems. Our laws already apply a broad range of serious penalties for people who conduct themselves in such violent ways.

"The public debate about alcohol-fuelled violence, the so-called coward punch attacks, that we have seen most recently in our city in the last few weeks, highlights the importance of maintaining a considered and evidence-based response to such violence in our community."

Mr Corbell said the government felt it was inappropriate to require courts to "abandon independence" and introduce mandatory sentencing, which can lead to "arbitrary and unjust results".

Instead, the government would focus on the causes of harm and evidence-based responses to reduce the impact of alcohol-fuelled violence in the community, he said.

Mr Corbell also used his speech to address the upcoming ACT law court renovations, which would require "patience" from the community, and latest figures on the justice system's performance.

He said while there had been improvements and "significant reductions" in delays to hearing cases, there was still more to be done to improve access to justice.

The 2016 legal year opening speech was Mr Corbell's last, after he signalled his intention to retire after the election this year.