Research suggesting the majority of fatal one-punch assaults are linked with alcohol and not illicit drugs will be presented at a forensic science seminar in Canberra on Tuesday.
The analysis of coronial findings for 12 years of single-punch deaths in Australia revealed only a handful of cases where illicit drugs were involved, while alcohol was linked to 73 per cent of deaths.
Monash University pharmacology and toxicology expert Dr Jennifer Pilgrim will discuss the findings, first published in December, at a seminar at the University of Canberra, hoping to help raise awareness and find ways to prevent fatal alcohol-fuelled violence.
Dr Pilgrim looked at cases between 2000 and 2012, finding 90 deaths to be linked with alcohol.
''It was surprising because what we've got to remember about these cases was that this was 90 completely preventable deaths,'' she said.
''And this really is just a conservative estimate, because we only looked at cases that were closed, so no longer under [police] investigation.''
The problem of alcohol-fuelled violence has been the subject of intense media coverage in recent months and has led to significant reforms in NSW. The ACT government is currently reviewing its own tough reforms, introduced in 2010 in an attempt to curb the violence.
The territory's measures - a dedicated police team, tough new regulatory powers and risk-based liquor licensing - have not gone as far as NSW's recent introduction of lockouts and earlier closing times.
Dr Pilgrim said the claim that a combination of drugs and alcohol was behind violence - which she said was often put forward by the alcohol industry - was not reflected in the research. ''There were only really a handful of cases that involved amphetamine-type drugs, and a few that involved cannabis, but otherwise it was really just alcohol,'' she said.
She said most of the cases revealed mid- to high-range blood alcohol concentration in attackers.
''We found them at three to four times the legal driving limit in Australia, so 0.14 up to 0.19 blood alcohol concentration; so they were not insignificant,'' Dr Pilgrim said.
''Obviously alcohol affects everyone differently … but they would have been impaired to some degree,'' she said.
The other notable issue found in her analysis was that victims were often under the influence of the alcohol.
Dr Pilgrim is working to raise further awareness about the issue with the hope of prompting cultural and behavioural change.
''The main thing we wanted to do with this research is to raise awareness that one punch can kill.
''I don't think anybody can really say they didn't know one punch can kill. Obviously there's been a lot in the media over the last few months and this research actually puts some stats to the anecdotal reports.''
Dr Pilgrim realises it will take time to shift attitudes, but points to effective awareness campaigns on smoking as evidence that behaviour can be changed.
The Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society is hosting Dr Pilgrim's seminar on Tuesday night, starting at 7.30pm at the University of Canberra.