Alcohol fuelled violence: how the criminal law looks at intoxication

Posted on September 25th, 2015

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by Lana Black

Lana Black is a Solicitor at Mullane & Lindsay and is part of our Commercial & Property Law team.

Alcohol fuelled violence has been a repeated topic of conversation over recent years, particularly after significant outcry from communities who have experienced the loss of young men and women as a result of alcohol fuelled violence.

When it comes to alcohol and the criminal law, there are many ways in which alcohol and intoxication are relevant to offences. To name just a few of the instances when the criminal law deals with intoxication; intoxication can be a factor which Police must take into account when interrogating suspected offenders, it can be an element of an offence itself, it can be relevant to whether an offender had the mental capacity to actually commit an offence and it can be relevant to the sentencing of an offender.

In 2014 there were fairly significant changes to NSW homicide law, with the introduction of Sections 25A and 25B of the Crimes Act 1900 which created the new offences of assault causing death and assault causing death while intoxicated. The introduction of these offences is but one example of recent changes to the law to reflect changing community values when it comes to intoxication and alcohol fuelled violence.

When it comes to considering intoxication when sentencing offenders, the Court has an important role in weighing up all the circumstances of each case, along with the general principles of sentencing. It is noteworthy that in the 2014 case of R v Loveridge the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal said:

    “Violence on the streets, especially by young men in company and under the influence of alcohol and drugs, is all too common and needs to be addressed by sentences that carry a very significant degree of general deterrence.”

General deterrence is one of the seven principles of sentencing and focuses on the effectiveness of a sentence in deterring the offender and other members of the community from committing an offence.

The NSW Sentencing Council is soon to release a report on “Alcohol and Drug-Fuelled Violence” and it is likely this report will impact upon future changes to the way the criminal law deals with alcohol and associated violent behaviour. With increasing concerns about alcohol fuelled violence, it seems that the law will continue to change to reflect the changing social attitude toward the risks of alcohol.

Lana Black is a Solicitor at Mullane & Lindsay and practises primarily in residential and commercial property transactions and estate planning and administration.  If you require any assistance in this area please contact Lana Black to arrange a consultation or contact our Newcastle office.

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