ACT News

One-punch laws not the answer to drunken violence in Canberra: Corbell

The ACT government will not consider one-punch laws as a deterrent to drunken violence in Canberra's city centre.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell said introducing new offences, or mandatory minimum jail sentences, for king hits was not the answer to concerns over the level of alcohol-related violence in the community.

Security vision captured a one-punch assault outside Academy nightclub in Civic on August 17.
Security vision captured a one-punch assault outside Academy nightclub in Civic on August 17. Photo: ACT Policing

A string of drunken assaults, including the most recent one-punch attack outside a Bunda Street nightclub early on Sunday,  have reignited public concerns over drunken assaults in Canberra's busiest nightspot

The Australian Federal Police Association, which represents ACT police, last week called for one-punch laws, similar to those in Victoria and NSW, to be considered for the territory.

The union's national president Jon Hunt-Sharman said a special offence would highlight "how deplorable our community finds this kind of behaviour".

Opposition leader Jeremy Hanson also urged the government to look at the impact of one-punch legislation in NSW and consider whether similar laws would be appropriate in the territory.


But Mr Corbell said one-punch assaults could be appropriately dealt with under existing legislation.

"Random acts of violence – such as 'coward's punches'– are, by their very nature, serious acts of violence that should be dealt with by the criminal law," Mr Corbell said.


"The criminal law in the ACT applies to this type of violence in the same way it applies to other violent acts."

Mr Corbell said there were several offences in the Crimes Act that an offender could be charged with as the result of a one-punch attack.


He said the offence a person was charged with would depend on the individual circumstances of the crime, with maximum penalties that ranged from two years in jail for common assault to life imprisonment for murder.

"Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions pursue an offence for a particular criminal act that fits with the circumstances of that act.


"One of the factors that prosecutors will consider when electing which offence to use includes whether a particular charge will attract an appropriate penalty for the behaviour of the offence and degree of culpability involved."

In response to widespread public outrage over fatal one punch assaults, Victoria and NSW have recently followed Western Australia and the Northern Territory in pursuing one-punch legislation.

The Victorian Parliament last week passed "coward's punch" legislation, which included a 10-year minimum jail sentence for a fatal punch without warning to the head. 

In January, NSW Parliament passed eight-year minimum mandatory sentence laws for fatal one-punch attacks where alcohol or drugs were a factor. 

The new laws in both those states have drawn criticism from lawyers and academics, who have argued they are unnecessary and undermine the judicial system.

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