OPINION: Ending alcohol-related violence needs a cultural, not legal change, says one letter writer.
OPINION: Ending alcohol-related violence needs a cultural, not legal change, says one letter writer.

Opinion: Changing culture of booze violence without jail

IN reply to Ian Spiers (DN Jan 11) re Coward Punch.

Although, I sympathise with Mr Spiers' intent, I would suggest his solution attacks the problem from the wrong end.

Increasing the jail term and developing a more targeted charge for this particular offence may prevent the offender from committing future crimes. However, doing so does not address the initial offence.

I would argue most criminals do not think they will be caught and punished when committing an offence.

What use is a deterrent after the fact?

Furthermore, it costs over $300 a day to keep the average prisoner in an Australian jail.

Not including court costs, this would equate to around $2.2 million if a prisoner were to serve the full term suggested by Mr Spiers.

The imprisonment rate in NSW is already around 170 per 100,000 adults.

This is nearly double what it was in the 1980s.

It appears, as a community we are already filling prisons quicker than we can build them.

Moreover, I would suggest the issue is not a legal problem but a cultural one.

Sadly, young males fuelled with alcohol and looking for trouble perpetrate the majority of these attacks.

It is Australia's drinking culture and the celebration of organised thuggery evident in some sporting codes, which are in need of change, not an adjustment to the criminal law.

I would suggest as a first step, returning the legal drinking age to 21 years and limiting the availability of takeaway alcohol to between 10am and 6pm on weekends.

Next I would review the liquor licensing laws and amend them so as to forbid the sale of full-strength drinks to all patrons after 10pm.

I would require all venues to close at midnight unless they provided a sit-down meal to patrons after 10pm.

Finally I would totally remove the tax from low alcohol beers and wines.

Having suggested these remedies, I am not as naive as to think they have a snowball's chance in hell of being implemented.

The power of the multinational alcohol producers, the various club and hoteliers associations, the government's addiction to tax revenues and of course Australian cultural acceptance of alcohol abuse will ensure this is never done.

Nevertheless, if we, as a community, wish to prevent our young men and women from being assaulted, killed or jailed due to the abuse of alcohol, we must have the courage to recognise that our culture is failing them and at the very least have the debate.

I therefore commend Mr Spiers for his contribution.

Brian MacBeth


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