Punch once and you could be in court twice
THOSE who find themselves on the wrong side of the law after being convicted of an alcohol-fuelled offence could find themselves back in court facing civil proceedings.
Under changes to Queensland law, introduced this year, a person who is convicted of unlawfully striking the head or neck of a person causing their death can be jailed for life.
Offenders convicted under the law are required to serve at least 80% of their sentence before being eligible to apply for parole.
Kelly Legal lawyer Elspeth Ledwy said there were other avenues for a victim or their family to take further action against a convicted perpetrator.
She said restitution could be sought throughout the criminal trial, but if the court did not order restitution it could be sought through the Victims of Crime legislation.
"The survivors of a coward punch are often left with dreadful side effects which the court will not take lightly," she said.
"While the legislation is focused on street violence or late-night violence the government and community are reacting against violence generally.
"Whether it is domestic violence, protections for the more vulnerable in our society such as the young, the elderly and the disabled or violence and harassment in the workplace.
"The old days of 'let us take it outside and sort it out' are gone, and so they should be."
Queensland Law Society president Ian Brown said the issue of addressing alcohol-related violence in communities was important.
But he questioned whether the tough new, untested measures, would actually work.
"The society's long-held view is that standard non-parole schemes are, as a form of mandatory penalty, expensive, lack transparency and ineffective as a deterrent," he said.
"Standard non-parole schemes that other states have introduced cannot be said to have been successful in terms of deterring offending and reducing rates of crime on any objective measure.
"We are concerned that the legislation shifts the onus of proof in circumstances where the alleged offender is deemed to have been adversely affected by an intoxicating substance."
Ms Ledwy said a criminal conviction could also have damaging impacts on future employment or overseas travel plans.
"Criminal convictions can have an impact on current or prospective employment and international travel if the conviction excludes them from qualifying for tourist visas," she said.
"If they are residents of Australia on visas, it may have a very damaging impact on their ability to stay in the country as they need to meet the character requirements for any visa application which requires them to disclose details of their criminal history."
A NSW Law Society representative said, under recent changes to legislation, perpetrators of violent crimes could be charged with assault, malicious wounding, reckless wounding or reckless grievous bodily harm.
They said the penalties were severe, for example, up to 14 years' jail for reckless grievous bodily harm in company or up to seven years' jail for reckless wounding.
Lawyers not unaffected by violence
KELLY Legal lawyer Elspeth Ledwy said working with victims and their families who fall foul to alcohol-fuelled violence can take a personal toll on those who represent them.
She said for her one particular case stood out.
"The one that first comes to mind was a very respectable young boy, from a very nurturing family, minding his own business, completely sober who was coward punched with no provocation," she said.
"It changed his entire life.
"His parents lost a part of the son they knew and had to deal with a completely changed person who himself had to grow up very fast, and deal with some very confronting and challenging emotions, not to mention the physical injuries."
Ms Ledwy said alcohol-fuelled crimes are unique beasts for legal professionals.
She said you were not just serving the victim, but you were also serving the entire family while they dealt with the impact of this type of violence.
"Sometimes it gets to you, but the best service that can be offered to victims and their families is to remain clear-headed and professional to assist them with the myriad of legal complexities they may be facing.
"Sometimes all they want is an explanation of how the criminal process works in respect of the charges laid against the offender.
"While the police will do their best to liaise with the victim's family they also have a job to do to prove their case.
"So they may not be able to help the victim and the family along that difficult journey as much as they may need."
NSW OFFENCES AND PENALTIES (MAX)
Common assault - two years
Assault causing actual bodily harm - five years
Reckless wounding - seven years
Reckless wounding in company - 10 years
Reckless infliction of grievous bodily harm - 10 years
Reckless infliction of grievous bodily harm in company - 14 years
Wound or inflict grievous bodily harm with intent - 25 years
Attempt to choke with intent to commit another indictable offence - 25 years
Administer intoxicating substance with intent to commit indictable offence - 25 years
Assault causing death - 20 years
Assault causing death when intoxicated - 25 years
QLD OFFENCES AND PENALTIES (MAX)
Unlawful striking causing death - 25 years
Common assault - seven years
Assault causing bodily harm - seven years
Assault causing bodily harm with aggravation - 10 years
Unlawful wounding - seven years
Unlawful wounding causing grievous bodily harm - 14 years