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February 04, 2014

The NSW Society of Labor Lawyers today expressed its disappointment and concern over the passage of the Crimes and Other Legislation Amendment (Assault and Intoxication) Bill 2014 through the NSW Parliament.

The Bill creates a new offence of “assault causing death”, and an aggravated form of that offence where the offender is an adult and is intoxicated. The aggravated intoxication offence carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 8 years imprisonment.

President of NSW Labor Lawyers, Hannah Quadrio, said the passage of the Bill was “extremely concerning”.

“We are strongly opposed to any form of mandatory sentencing which removes the Court’s ability to consider the individual circumstances of the case. Punishment must fit the crime, and it must fit the criminal.

“Imagine this scenario. An elderly couple has been enjoying some wine at home. Neither of them have any previous criminal history. They get into an argument, and the woman pushes her husband in response to a rude remark. He falls over and hits his head, which leads to death. Now this new legislation could see the elderly woman sentenced to at least 8 years behind bars. That is entirely inappropriate,” Ms Quadrio said.

“Mandatory sentences hinder the administration of justice and do nothing to address drunken violence on our streets.

“Does the Government really believe that someone who is drunk and up for a fight, will in the heat of the moment, be reminded of the mandatory sentence for assault causing death? Of course not.

“This is a knee-jerk response to political pressure. It is bad law and bad policy. We expect there will be many legal challenges in response to the unfair and inconsistent sentences that will arise from the new legislation.”

The NSW Society of Labor Lawyers aims to promote legal change to help bring about a more just and equitable society.

Media contact: Hannah Quadrio 0405 758 053