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Demand for tougher laws on drunken violence

Thomas Kelly's parents have demanded the state government drastically reform sentencing laws for alcohol-fuelled violence as they despaired at yet another teenager left in a coma after being punched in Kings Cross.

The parents whose son died in Kings Cross in July 2012 said their hearts went out to the family of 18-year-old Daniel Christie, who remained on life support on Thursday after being allegedly king hit by Shaun McNeil on New Year's Eve.

"We'd prepared ourselves for this kind of news, but it still came as a shock,'' Ralph and Kathy Kelly said in a statement obtained exclusively by Fairfax Media.

''On New Year's Eve, in almost exactly the same spot in Kings Cross where our beloved son Thomas was killed, another young man had fallen victim to the rage of alcohol-fuelled violence.

''A single punch. Another young man fighting for his life. Another family distraught and torn apart. When is this going to end?''


In a heartbreaking twist, Fairfax Media has learnt that Daniel's mother Maureen signed a petition launched by the Kellys to campaign for reforms to cover ''one-punch'' assaults.

In a statement, the Christies said: ''We don't agree with the popular term 'king-hit'. We have heard it referred to as a coward punch, which seems to be more appropriate.''

On Friday, the Kelly family will update the petition to demand the government reform the NSW Sentencing Act by making drunkenness a ''mandatory aggravating factor'' that must be taken into account on sentencing.

They will also demand a victim's age and inability to defend themselves be additional factors considered to increase a jail sentence.

Kieran Loveridge was sentenced to four years for fatally king-hitting Thomas Kelly, prompting Ralph to say at the time the sentence left him ''beyond disbelief''.

Their petition has attracted 23,000 signatures since November.

Premier Barry O'Farrell was accused of caving in to the powerful liquor lobby after demanding in opposition that government needed to consider a state-wide 3am curfew on licensed premises.

The government is under pressure to raise its response after the latest incident.

On Thursday Mr O'Farrell said he was "horrified and appalled" by the attack, which occurred about 9pm at the same spot where Mr Kelly was fatally king hit in 2012.

But he rejected calls to extend the so-called ''Newcastle solution'' - 1am lockouts, 3am closures and a ban on the sale of shots after 10pm - which led to a dramatic fall in alcohol-related incidents in that town at night.

It is in apparent contrast with Mr O'Farrell's position in May 2008, when as opposition leader he said a 3am closing time for pubs and clubs must be on the agenda.

''If the state government is serious in cracking down on violence across pubs they ought to take the results of the Newcastle trial, they ought to look at what the Brumby government is doing in Victoria and look at the universal 3am curfew,'' he said in 2008.

The Australian Hotels Association's NSW branch is opposed to mandatory lock-outs and closures in Sydney, claiming it would ''shut down Australia's only global city''.

Mr O'Farrell said on Thursday the government no longer supports a ''one size fits all'' approach, despite police, medical and community groups calling for Newcastle-style measures across NSW.

''Given the timing of the assaults upon Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly … 1am lockouts would have provided no protection,'' he said.

Mr O'Farrell conceded that while the number of assaults had fallen in recent years, there had been ''a horrifying increase in the level of violence used''. He pointed to the government's ''locally tailored solutions'' such as the Manly liquor accord and measures at Kings Cross, which include sobering-up centres, extra police and a plan for photo ID scanners at venues where violence occurs.

However, Manly Council has previously questioned the effectiveness of liquor accords, and the AMA's NSW branch says the Kings Cross initiatives amount to ''tinkering at the edges''.

Acting Opposition Leader Linda Burney said Mr O'Farrell had ''sold out to the liquor lobby'' by dodging a lockout trial.

''In opposition he called for evidence-based solutions … in government he supports the liquor lobby,'' she said. ''People didn't vote for the Liberals to run a protection racket for pubs and clubs. How many more young lives have to be ruined before Barry O'Farrell agrees to trial the measures that worked in Newcastle?''

Greens MP John Kaye said Labor has ''miraculously rediscovered its courage'' after failing to crack down on the alcohol industry when in government, and the Coalition backflip showed it too had ''succumbed to liquor industry lobbying''.

The AHA NSW director of policing John Green said Kings Cross venues were already subject to tough restrictions. He said more attention should be given to transport, the culture of mixing drugs and alcohol, the sale of cheap liquor at bottle shops and pre-fuelling.

A spokesman for acting Minister for Justice Michael Gallacher said: "The government appreciates Ralph and Kathy Kelly's strong advocacy for strategies that reduce alcohol-related violence following the tragic death of their son Thomas.''

"Ralph and Kathy Kelly's meeting with the Attorney-General was very productive and the government is currently considering their proposals in relation to the circumstances in which intoxication is an aggravating factor on sentence."