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Pressure grows for tougher sentences

The use of good behaviour bonds for criminals is rising sharply despite new evidence to suggest they are not as effective as other sentencing options in deterring repeat offenders.

Signatures on a petition for sentencing reform launched by the family of king hit victim Thomas Kelly almost tripled on Friday as pressure mounted on the state government to take a tougher stance on punishing violent drunks.

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Almost 60,000 people had signed the petition by Friday evening, including Maureen Christie, whose 18-year-old son Daniel is on life support at St Vincent's Hospital after an alleged unprovoked punch by self-proclaimed mixed martial arts fighter Shaun McNeil, who was until last year on a good behaviour bond.

He has been charged with assaulting Daniel, his brother Peter and three teenage boys in the space of a few minutes about 9pm on New Year's Eve in Kings Cross.

A court heard this week that Mr McNeil was convicted of assaulting a man on New Year's Eve in 2011 and given a good behaviour bond that expired in March last year on condition he undertake courses in anger management and grief resolution.

Among the demands in the Kellys' petition are that conditional liberty such as curfews or requirements to report to police or stay away from certain areas be a mandatory feature of good behaviour bonds.


''This will tackle the issue of repeat offenders,'' Ralph and Kathy Kelly said.

Despite mounting pressure, the NSW government refused to commit to any reforms on Friday.

Premier Barry O'Farrell referred questions to his acting Justice Minister, Michael Gallacher, who acknowledged rising frustration and said the Attorney-General Greg Smith was considering the Kellys' proposals.

"Community service orders and good behaviour bonds are being examined in relation to the government's response to the Law Reform Commission's report on sentencing,'' he said.

Good behaviour bonds are given to almost two-thirds of common assault perpetrators and half of all cases of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

These figures are rapidly rising while the use of strict community service orders has fallen to just 3.4 per cent, despite new research proving they are much more effective in preventing reoffending.

A NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research study in August found that community service orders were substantially more effective than good behaviour bonds and provided a ''promising alternative in terms of reoffending''.

Good behaviour bonds require an offender only ''to be of good behaviour'' whereas community service orders require an offender to perform up to 500 hours of unpaid work.

In July, the NSW Law Reform Commission found that community service orders were being ''underused'' and the entire system of good behaviour bonds should be replaced with a new single community correction order.

One recommendation was that the requirement to "be of good behaviour" was replaced with a requirement to "not commit a further offence" in order to provide ''greater certainty as to the obligation that arises''.

Police Association of NSW president Scott Weber, who is also spokesman for the Last Drinks Coalition of emergency services workers, said police were sick of the judiciary not protecting the community.

''We're inundated. We're sick and tired of turning up to people's families and saying your son has been seriously injured or your son is in custody because he's done something stupid on the grog,'' he said.

Daniel Christie's family remained by his bedside in St Vincent's Hospital on Friday. A witness to the alleged assault on New Year's Eve told Fairfax Media he heard the sickening sound of the teenager's head hitting the pavement from a one-storey balcony almost 50 metres away.