News

'Your honour, my client was intoxicated' is a common refrain

IT'S funny how alcohol can become some kind of excuse for bad behaviour.

I don't spend a great deal of time in court.

Usually another reporter covers the sittings, but when I do a common theme seems to emerge.

From public nuisances to instances of domestic violence, drink driving of course and violent assaults, many of these criminal charges seem to come out of an occasion when the person got too intoxicated.

And so often from the defence lawyers comes the excuse:

Their client was intoxicated.

They would never behave like that under normal circumstances.

The situation just got out of control.

In court, these people are just like anyone else.

With some of them, you can hardly imagine them or how they must have been on the night in question, when they abused their girlfriend, spat on police, started screaming and swearing, punched someone or refused to co-operate when they were arrested.

As someone who has always been a pretty happy drunk, it's hard for me to imagine how the consumption of alcohol can dramatically change a person's personality.

But after spending long enough in court, I believe it can.

What I don't believe is that it makes these people any less responsible for their actions - especially those who know they have a problem with drinking.

Without alcohol, I think it would be fair to say the court system and probably our prisons would be a lot less busy and a lot less crowded.

I don't get to spend much time in our local emergency unit.

I would love to know how many of the injuries that send people to the waiting room of our hospitals are caused by a night of heavy drinking.

This country is considered to be a heavy-drinking nation, with Australians drinking a large volume of alcohol frequently.

In 2009, the Australian Medical Association released figures that showed 40% of Australians drank alcohol on a weekly basis, 8% on a daily basis.

Almost one in 10 Australians over 14 years of age in 2007, drank at levels considered risky or high risk to health, according to the association, including binge drinking.

Before those who like to unwind with a quiet beer or wine think I'm talking about them, I'm not. Relax.

I like a drink myself but I don't like what I see when I go to court.

I'm not suggesting we ban alcohol - that's way too extreme - and I'm not suggesting we increase the price of alcohol because I think that ultimately is not the solution.

But we need to make more of an effort to educate people, especially young people, on the dangers of drinking to excess, not only over a long period but over a short period of time.

This is a social problem and a health issue and one that needs addressing immediately, if what I'm seeing in court is anything to go by.

Topics:  carlie walker, court, drinking, drunk, editors picks, excuses, fraser coast, lawyer



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