Legal Experts Say Coward Punch Laws Don’t Work, Time To Drop ‘Em

Both New South Wales and Victoria have introduced ‘one-punch laws’ minimum sentencing laws, which dictate mandatory sentences if someone is convicted of killing someone with a single strike. They came in the wake of several high-profile cases in both states in which someone was killed by a ‘coward punch’ from an intoxicated assailant.
In NSW, for example, offenders who are intoxicated during a fatal attack face mandatory sentences of 8 years. In Victoria, an offender must be sentenced to 10 years in prison if the court is satisfied that the victim did not expect to be hit.
The Law Council of Australia will tell a Senate inquiry today that all mandatory minimum sentences for these kind of offences should be repealed, as they don’t actually do anything, and may lead to unjust outcomes.
“Mandatory sentencing can actually create greater law and order problems, because we know that imprisonment is a terrific way to increase the chances of an individual engaging in more serious criminal acts down the track,” said the Council’s president Stuart Clark. He recommends harsher maximum penalties instead.
Interestingly, no one has actually been sentenced under these laws since they were introduced in 2014.
Criminal law professor Julie Quilter reckons these laws are pointless because we already have laws against murder and manslaughter. She thinks that approaching drunken violence as somehow different to sober violence serves no real purpose.
“Why isn’t it just as serious if a person hits someone in the head when they’re stone cold sober and means to do it as opposed to an intoxicated person? Why is it less serious that someone yells [that they are about to punch their victim if] they still die?”

She thinks approaching licensing reform and laws around alcohol are a better way to go.
Source: Fairfax.
Image: Supreme Court of NSW.