By James Atkinson

Policy measures announced last week by the O’Farrell Government to tackle street violence in Sydney are a “cringeworthy example of ill-informed policy on the run and pandering to minorities”, a leading liquor licensing lawyer has told TheShout exclusively.

Sylvester & Browne Lawyers principal David Sylvester said the measures proposed by Premier Barry O’Farrell are “ill conceived” and “simply won’t reduce violence on our streets”.

“I have been amazed with how this whole debate has been hijacked by various sections of the media,” he said.

“We as a society should expect and require that if a particular media organisation is proffering a point of view, they should also provide some feedback regarding alternate views or opinions rather than uninformed and baseless scaremongering designed to sell newspapers."

Lockouts won't work in Sydney

Sylvester said the effectiveness of the 1.30am lockouts in the small city of Newcastle will not be replicated in Sydney, where patrons can simply ‘bar hop’ to late licensed premises outside the designated precinct.

“Similarly, implementing a 3am ‘last drinks’ policy seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to appease the anti-alcohol coalition,” he said. 

“If patrons are enjoying a responsible drink inside a venue, why should their night be cut short because of the actions of a few buffoons who have caused problems outside the venue?” 

“The media and those with an agenda seem to forget that since the introduction of increased security, Responsible Service of Alcohol, the Three Strikes policies and RSA Marshalls, violence inside venues has dropped dramatically,” Sylvester said.

As for the proposal for risk-based licensing, he says higher fees make sense only for venues with poor compliance histories. 

“To implement higher fees on venues simply because they are in high-risk locations or have later trading hours appears discriminatory and suggests guilt by association,” he said. 

Drugs issue overlooked

Sylvester says the NSW Police hierarchy, health workers, the government and the major newspapers have refused to acknowledge the 'elephant in the room' – the increased use by young people of illicit drugs including steroids, which is very likely linked to street violence. 

“In short, it has just been too easy to blame alcohol for all of the social problems because the police and doctors were not legally permitted to test the blood of offenders for the presence of ice, amphetamines or steroids which are predominantly the types of drugs that lead to heightened aggression in both men and women,” he said.

“Whilst most rank and file street police knew that illicit substances were being used in concert with alcohol, according to my sources, they were effectively muzzled from saying anything because of the anti-alcohol agenda of the powerful NSW Police union.”

Mandatory sentencing “a legal minefield”

Sylvester believes current laws already adequately address serious assaults and the proposed implementation of eight-year mandatory sentences under one-punch laws can only be described as a “legal minefield”. 

“If two people engage in a fight and hit each other a few times and then finally someone gets a punch in that results in the death of the other person, then according to the proposals that situation will not come under the new sentencing laws,” he said. 

“Again, the proposal seems ill-conceived and not thought through.”

The best bits of a bad policy

However, Sylvester says some of the proposed changes have been welcomed by many of his clients, including the following (his comments in quotes):

  • increased on-the-spot fines for intoxicated and disorderly behaviour – “a smart move that hits people in the ‘hip pocket nerve’”;
  • immediate 48-hour CBD precinct bans for troublemakers – “probably doesn't go far enough… If people are regularly causing trouble or are going out of their way to commit or incite violent acts, then maybe they should be banned for six months”;  
  • Increasing community awareness via regular media campaigns designed to address binge drinking and violence – “Similar schemes to those in the past such as RBT, AIDS transmission and recent Plan B campaign can only assist in my view”; and
  • removal of intoxication by drugs or alcohol as a mitigating factor in sentencing – “appears to be logical and in line with community expectations”.

Sylvester concludes: “In my view (including many of my clients), many of the recently proposed amendments to the law by Premier O'Farrell simply won't reduce violence on our streets because the ideas are either ill-conceived or amount to policy on the run.” 

“As history has shown us, policy on the run is rarely effective in addressing the original problems facing regulators.”

The Shout Team

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

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1 Comment

  1. Society suffers due to a few idiots that cause trouble and have no respect for others. Typical & disturbing.

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