Targeting Drunken Violence – New Laws Afoot
Were frequently swamped with news reports about alcohol-fuelled violence; from footage of swaying teens verbally abusing police, to assault victims fighting for their lives in hospitals. Unsurprisingly, alcohol laws are often the subject of debate in NSW Parliament.
The latest round focuses on a strike system for licensed venues that break serious liquor laws. The second draft of the Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill was announced in October.
Drunken assaults often happen in pubs and clubs. So this Bill targets venues that contribute to alcohol-fuelled violence by repeatedly breaking Liquor Act laws. Under the Three strikes and youre out policy, venues could be shut down if three serious offences happen in three years.
The way it works is this – a venue would be hit with a first strike after the manager or licensee was convicted of one serious offence, like letting drunks on the premises, or serving booze to a minor or someone intoxicated. Other serious offences include things like selling alcohol outside permitted trading hours, allowing violent behaviour or the use or sale of drugs in the venue, and ignoring closure orders.
The first strikes automatic if theres been an actual conviction (not just an allegation), and it stays in force for 3 years.
Breaking another serious law could mean a second strike. Thats not automatic its up to the Director General of NSW Trade and Investment.
A third serious offence could mean the final strike. Also not automatic, thats up to the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority to decide, and it would have the option of considering other action instead of a strike. The final strike could mean license suspension or cancellation (ie. the venue could no longer sell or serve booze), or the licensee could be disqualified from having a licence again.
In an industry like liquor, thats potentially a lot of money down the drain.
The decision to make a second or third strike would depend how serious any harm was that occurred as a result of the offence (eg injuries, sickness, neighbourhood disturbance). And it would have to consider things like the venues size and capacity, and if thered been a change of manager or licensee.
One criticism of the Bill is that it treats pubs differently to clubs. Unlike other licensed venues, clubs wouldnt lose their license after three strikes. Instead, the club secretary could be disqualified, or club directors sacked.
A public register would be held by the Office of Liquor and Gaming, so potential lessees or purchasers can check if a venue has any strikes.
Lets face it; there will always be those who drink to excess and behave badly. At least making venues more accountable might help stamp out part of the problem.