NSW Government to introduce lockouts for pubs and bars, earlier closing times for bottle shops
Pubs and bars in Sydney’s CBD and the Kings Cross area will have to lock out new customers from 1.30am, and cease alcohol trading by 3am, and bottle shops will have to close their doors at 10pm, under a new package to be introduced by the New South Wales Government.
An eight year mandatory minimum sentence for drug and alcohol affected one-punch assaults will also be introduced as part of the NSW Government’s package designed to “make the streets safer”, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell announced on Tuesday 21 January 2014.
The New South Wales Parliament will be recalled next week in order to implement some of the key legislative measures as quickly as possible.
The package includes:
Eight year mandatory minimum sentence for those convicted under new one-punch laws where the offender is intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol, plus new mandatory minimum sentences for violent assaults where intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol;
Introduction of 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks across an expanded CBD precinct to include Kings Cross to Darling Harbour, The Rocks to Haymarket and Darlinghurst;
New State-wide 10pm closing time for all bottle shops and liquor stores;
Increasing the maximum sentence to 25 years for the illegal supply and possession of steroids — up from two years;
Increased on-the-spot fines to $1,100 for continued intoxicated and disorderly behaviour disobeying a police move-on order — an increase of more than five times;
Community awareness and media campaign to “address the culture of binge drinking and the associated drug and alcohol related violence”;
Free buses running every ten minutes from Kings Cross to the CBD to connect with existing NightRide services on Friday and Saturday nights;
Removal of voluntary intoxication by drugs or alcohol as a mitigating factor when courts determine sentences;
Increasing maximum penalties by two years where drugs and/or alcohol are aggravating factors for violent crimes including assault causing grievous bodily harm, reckless bodily harm, assault against police, affray and sexual assault;
Enabling police to impose an immediate CBD precinct ban of up to 48 hours for “trouble-makers”;
Introduction of a periodic risk-based licencing scheme with higher fees imposed for venues and outlets that have later trading hours, poor compliance histories or are in “high risk” locations;
A precinct-wide freeze on liquor licences for new pubs will be introduced.
“I have been horrified by the continued drug and alcohol-fuelled attacks on city streets and the increase in violence used in these attacks,” Premier O’Farrell said. “I’ve heard the community’s call for action and I’m confident this package of measures approved by Cabinet will make a difference,” he said.
“These new measures are tough and for that I make no apologies,” Premier O’Farrell said. “I expect opposition to some or all of the measures, but the community wants strong action and the NSW Government intends to deliver it,” he said.
Premier O’Farrell said the measures build on a targeted approach taken by the NSW Government to tackled drug and alcohol-fuelled violence, with other measures including the ‘Three Strikes’ regime, increasing police numbers and powers and improving public transport.
“Dealing effectively with the issue of drug and alcohol-fuelled violence requires concerted efforts by government and its agencies, the alcohol industry and the community,” Premier O’Farrell said. “A strong consistent message is required that alcohol and drug-fuelled violence will not be tolerated,” he said.
“There are no single or simple cure-alls for these problems,” Premier O’Farrell said. “It’s incumbent on all of us to play our part if we are to stamp out this unacceptable behaviour and change the culture that surrounds it,” he said.
Criticism of the late-hour lockout
The reforms have been welcomed by many, but there has also been criticism.
City of Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, welcomed the announcement, but warned that the measures could merely push revellers into city-adjacent areas after the lockout time if late night public transport is not also improved.
“What we don’t want to see is tens of thousands of people making their way to other areas just outside of the new precinct,” Mayor Moore said. “There needs to be active monitoring of the neighbourhoods outside the Government’s CBD precinct to ensure the problem isn’t being shifted somewhere else,” she said.
The mandatory sentencing reform has also been criticised, with Phillip Boulten SC, President of the NSW Bar Association, saying the proposed mandatory eight year minimum sentences for ‘coward punch’ assaults will do nothing to prevent alcohol-fuelled violence on the streets.
“Mandatory sentencing is a “one size fits all” form of justice, which fails to take into account the individual circumstances of each case,” Mr Boulten said. “Mandatory sentencing laws do not deter criminal activity. They remove discretion from judges. They result in penalties that are often disproportionately harsh,” he said.
There has also been criticism of the view that deaths on the streets caused by alcohol-induced violence would be prevented by the new late-night lockout rules.
Numerous commentators on social media platform Twitter have focused on recent fatalities in Sydney — Daniel Christie, who was assaulted at 9pm, and Thomas Kelly who was assaulted at 10pm.
Will the 1.30am lockout be a successful measure to stop the ‘one-punch’ assaults? Maybe not, but it is just one of the Government’s new measures to curb the social culture of excessive alcohol consumption by young Australians.
“The Premier’s announcement today is huge step in the right direction, said Gerard Hayes, Secretary of the Health Services Union NSW and spokesperson for the Last Drinks coalition, a group of NSW emergency services workers. “It won’t solve the problem of alcohol-related violence entirely, but it’s certainly going to make a significant difference,” he said.
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