In this week's instalment of citizen journalism, Archbold Legal Solutions solicitor, David Sylvester, gives a legal perspective on last week’s stoush between Government and Police over the inspection of licensed premises.

“The recent finger pointing going on between the NSW Police Association and the Keneally Labor Government in relation to claims of reduced OLGR inspections of licensed premises has been interesting to say the least.

If there has been a reduction in the number of inspections, some will that this is a result of the failure of several prosecutions by the OLGR late last year in relation to ‘Licensee Permit Intoxication’ breaches.

Alternatively, the reductions may simply have been the result of lower staff numbers over the Christmas/New Year break. In my opinion, the Police Association’s attempts to politicise the situation are not helping.

In so far as violence on our streets is concerned, it appears that both the Police Association and the Government have missed the point.

The increase in liquor licensing enforcement was brought about as a direct result of the levels of violence on our streets, particularly within Sydney’s CBD and Newcastle.

Mistakenly, the Premier of the day assumed or was misinformed that the problems were purely the result of alcohol, and as such, drastic measures were required to control the problem.

From this point on, the OLGR dispatched inspectors on a state wide blitz, ably assisted by NSW Police in an attempt to bring the problem under control.

As a result, it wasn’t difficult to see how the Police and the OLGR characterised publicans and licensees as the enemy in their efforts to control violence.

The difficultly however, with the Police and government response was their refusal to acknowledge the ‘elephant in the room’ issue of drugs and its relationship to violent crime.

Was it possible that patrons were not only drinking alcohol but were also taking illicit drugs which in turn led to violent outbursts? Surely not?

When interviewed recently on Channel Nine news, the NSW Police Commissioner went to great lengths to outline the problems that alcohol was causing but not once did he mention the problem of illicit drugs and how there may in fact be a nexus between alcohol, drugs and violence.

The Police and government need to acknowledge this link and then seek to introduce appropriate strategies to deal with the problem. Contrary to the nay-sayers, publicans are already doing their bit.

The strategies that have been put into place by publicans to address intoxication and unruly behaviour are working and are continuing to have a positive effect in the form of fewer breaches from regulatory agencies.

According to many of our clients, Christina Keneally’s consultative and self accountability approach to liquor licensing and compliance since becoming Premier should be applauded not criticised.

Clearly, the government and the liquor industry need to work together to address the problems associated with alcohol abuse. The big stick approach will only serve to alienate the parties involved which will assist no-one in the end.”

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The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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