Mandatory sentencing may help Byron Bay

LOCAL publicans hope the O'Farrell Government's tough stance on mandatory sentencing for alcohol-fuelled violence will send a clear message to the small handful of drunken fools giving Byron a bad name.

The public campaign for tougher laws, sparked by the deaths of high profile king hit victims Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie, has been followed with interest by members of the Byron Liquor Accord, who are already subject to similar licensing restrictions set to be imposed on Sydney's party precincts.

Earlier lock-outs have been trialled in Byron with varying success but until this week, little had been done to deter those who had helped give the town the unenviable reputation of being the most violent outside of Sydney.

Recent BOCSAR statistics showed pub assaults were down in Byron but violence on the streets remained a problem.

While many of the alcohol reforms flagged by Premier Barry O'Farrell have been met with mixed reaction, Byron Liquor Accord President Hannah Spalding believes mandatory minimum sentences for drunken assaults that end in death or serious injury, could make a real difference to the attitude of visiting party-goers.

"It really is the minority out there that causes the trouble and if there is no longer a chance of them walking away with a slap on the wrist, then that can only be positive," Ms Spalding said

"Most of the people who go out here want to have a good time and mandatory sentencing sends a clear message to the few who don't, that they will be facing severe penalties if they play up."

Under the reforms, deadly coward punches will attract a minimum eight-year jail sentence and penalties for all alcohol fuelled assaults will be increased by two years.

The NSW Bar Association has criticised the move, claiming "there is no evidence to prove that mandatory sentences are effective."

Ms Spalding said while there was always a chance that "someone is not going to care", it was "really fantastic too see negative aggressive behaviour finally being targeted".

Meanwhile, the Australian Medical Association has called for wider spread action on alcohol fuelled violence.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said doctors across the country were dealing with broken bodies and shattered lives and a broad review of alcohol misuse in the community, the marketing of alcohol to young people was needed.

He is expected to outline the AMA's proposal at a press conference in Sydney on Thursday.



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