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Barry O'Farrell announces 'tough' laws to combat alcohol-fuelled violence

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'No single cure-all to these problems'

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell spells out changes to help cut down the current level of alcohol related violence.

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Pubs and clubs in Sydney’s CBD will be forced to lock out new customers from 1.30am and cease alcohol trading by 3am under a state government crackdown on alcohol- and drug-related violence.

Premier Barry O’Farrell has also announced bottle shops will have to close their doors at 10pm.

Venues will be subject to a risk-based licensing scheme whereby higher fees will be imposed on venues that trade later, are larger or are in high risk areas, as part of a reform package announced on Tuesday.

As foreshadowed, mandatory minimum sentences of eight years in jail will apply to fatal one-punch attacks involving alcohol and drugs.

But Mr O’Farrell also announced mandatory minimum sentences would be introduced for other drug- or alcohol-fuelled offences, including reckless wounding (three years), assaulting a police officer in the execution of duty (two years), affray (four years) and sexual assault (five years).

Police will be able to test for drugs and alcohol if they suspect someone has committed an alcohol- or drug-fuelled assault.

Parliament will be brought back early next week, probably on Wednesday, to introduce the legislation required to implement the package.

Mr O’Farrell said with the support of the opposition the new mandatory sentencing laws could be in place by February 1, and the rest of the package, including the lockouts and reduced trading hours, by the end of April.

He said the lockouts and 3am licensing restrictions would apply to venues within a new CBD entertainment precinct stretching from Kings Cross to Cockle Bay, The Rocks to Haymarket and Darlinghurst.

CBD map
The proposed area targeted by licensing restrictions.

‘‘This is about trying to send a very clear message to the industry that yes, you can continue to trade after 3 o’clock, but drinks will cease at 3 o’clock," the Premier said.

Restaurants and small bars and ‘‘tourism accommodation facilities’’ are exempt, as are venues at Barangaroo, including James Packer’s planned six-star hotel and casino.

"This is not about penalising responsible drinkers," he said. "It is about attacking the irresponsible acts of those who allow themselves to be intoxicated, whether by drugs or alcohol."

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore welcomed the reforms but warned that they could push violence into neighbouring areas unless 24-hour transport was improved.

Mr O'Farrell said he had "heard the community's call, their demand for action. And I'm confident that the package that cabinet approved yesterday will make the difference and start the change that the community seeks to have implemented".

Other measures in the package include:

  • Voluntary intoxication will be removed as a mitigating factor in sentencing;
  • Free buses leaving every 10 minutes from Kings Cross to the CBD on Friday and Saturday nights;
  • A freeze on liquor licences for new clubs and pubs (with small bars, restaurants and tourist accommodation exempted);
  • Increased on the spot fines for anti-social behaviour (eg, from $150 to $500 for offensive language and from $200 to $500 for offensive behaviour);
  • Increase from two years to 25 years' maximum sentence for the illegal supply and possession of steroids;
  • A ‘‘road safety-style’’ social media and advertising campaign targeted at alcohol fuelled violence;

Justin Hemmes, CEO of Merivale, which owns ivy and multiple other bars in Sydney, said he welcomed the policy announcement.

"Without doubt, these measures will create a safer environment for all," Mr Hemmes said.

Reaction is being sought from the NSW branch of the Australian Hotels Association and the Last Drinks coalition of emergency services workers.

358 comments

  • Excellent! A knee jerk response that punishes the vast majority of people who DO NOT act like drunken thugs on a night out...

    Like everyone, I am sickened by the thugs that attack people with coward punches. Imposing restrictions on the majority of law abiding citizens to curb these idiots IS NOT the answer! Tougher sentencing is needed, more education is needed, more police are needed. Sydney is meant to be a world city...

    Commenter
    Daniel
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    January 21, 2014, 12:31PM
    • Rubbish. The facts are undeniable and your solutions are unworkable. Your logic is why the US has such a bad gun problem, the people are entrusted to do the right things, too often they don't and people die. This is a good first step but these venues need to be closed even earlier and the incentive to misbehave removed. Why does anyone need to be out at 3am in the morning anyway? Go to bed!

      Commenter
      eyeroll
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 21, 2014, 12:44PM
    • I've never voted for the NSW Liberal Party, but it's good to see Barry show some leadership on this.

      Unfortunately Daniel, sometimes people need to give up a little for the greater good. The good news is that you're only giving up the right to drink alcohol after 1:30 in the morning, and only in the CBD. It's hardly a massive price to pay surely! Go home and have a few more beers if you really need to.

      Commenter
      Doobie
      Date and time
      January 21, 2014, 12:52PM
    • I wasn't aware the majority of well behaved drinkers will still drinking in the CBD past 3am? I must be behind the times.

      Hyperbole maybe?

      Commenter
      Fotografa
      Location
      Darlinghurst
      Date and time
      January 21, 2014, 12:53PM
    • The vast majority of people aren't desperate for a drink at 0300hrs. This affects a small group of people who have amongst them an element who want to flex their muscles and ask questions later. They've had years to do something about this and the MAJORITY of people are sick of seeing good kids killed by this element.

      Extra police is always nice but it's always a limited resource. And I'm not sure what type of education you think would get through to the meatheads who perpretrate this type of violence on our streets.

      Commenter
      wombat
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      January 21, 2014, 12:56PM
    • Daniel, I wouldn't have thought the vast majority would need to move to a new venue after 1.30am or keep drinking after 3am (unless shift workers) or buy grog from a bottle shop after 10pm (although I think the latter is probably a bit of an over-reach). Also, this only applies to these particular precincts.

      All in all it seems to have some merit.

      Commenter
      jofek
      Date and time
      January 21, 2014, 1:00PM
    • Mandatory sentencing is dangerous and slippery slope. Take a look at the US justice system. There are always exceptions which get caught in the net. Is this the first of a range of mandatory sentences (eg for drug offences perhaps?) Agree with the lock out. No one needs to drink until dawn but if you do home is the place to do it.

      Commenter
      Bang Bang
      Date and time
      January 21, 2014, 1:01PM
    • Just wondering how you see this as a punishment to you, let alone the "vast majority."
      Do you really need to continue drinking after 3am?

      Commenter
      Nowran
      Date and time
      January 21, 2014, 1:03PM
    • Watch the mayhem ensue. People will merely start earlier and there will be mass chaos on the streets at 3am as there was years ago when everyone was forced out at once.

      Commenter
      GOV
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 21, 2014, 1:03PM
    • You are repeating the same argument used by the NRA against gun control. You can still drink yourself silly until 3am if you are already in the venue. You can also stock up at home and drink to your hearts delight. Not sure these moves go far enough. Less alcohol advertising please.

      Commenter
      Matthew
      Location
      Lane Cove
      Date and time
      January 21, 2014, 1:03PM

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