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Mandatory Sentencing - Judicial Response to Alcohol‐fuelled Violence

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My mother’s best friend through high school, a close family friend of mine Robyn Cronin, was thrilled to hear her young son of 19 Patrick, had made it into the senior football league. On the 16th of April, 2016, he played his first game alongside his older brother Lucas. He was an aspiring football player. He had gone drinking with his mates later that evening, the same day of his first match. Later that evening, Patrick died after being the victim of a coward punch that fractured his skull. Speaking to Robyn not long ago, she had said Patrick’s death tore her heart to shreds. She was infuriated at the court’s disorganization, taking almost a year before Patrick’s murderer was sentenced. Robyn still has not completely recovered from Patrick’s death, however she says that the mandatory sentence was not appropriate, particularly in her son’s case. She hopes that no other mum has to go through the same dreadful call and the same experience of losing her baby boy.

This sort of violence is still a frequent occurrence, always attracting significant media attention to this day. It comes to show that since legislations decision for a mandatory sentencing for coward punches, it still has not been proven to be a good initiative by government, who have yet, not gone far enough to solve the coward punch epidemic and alcohol fuelled violence in general. So far not showing any evidence that the law has deterrent coward punches and delivered justice, it also challenges the foundations of our basic law system. Instead, government should consider education of the masses and other mandatory precautions, to illustrate the dangers of coward punch assaults, and dissuade Australians from getting involved or dragged into these violent situations. Such interventions may have saved my close childhood family friend from being murdered that night.

Since mandatory sentencing was introduced to Australia in 2014, little evidence of a decrease in the rates of alcohol fuelled violence has not yet been provided. It may mean coward punches are still yet to be a common headline for news broadcasts. Since the statute was passed through legislation, there has still been 5 cases of coward punches in the media: 40 year old Trevor Duroux in 2015, 18 year old Cole Miller in 2016, 19 Patrick Cronin in 2016, 36 year old Melissa Abdoo in 2016 and father of 2 twin girls, 41 year old Patrick Pritzwald-Stegman in 2017, after just telling a man to stop smoking outside hospital doors where he saved lives as a heart surgeon. According to a 2013 study by Monash University’s forensic medicine department, ‘90 Australians have had their lives tragically taken by coward punch assaults since 2000’. That statistic has since risen’ (M. Palin. June 29, 2017) Furthermore, research done in 2017 showed around ‘23% to as much as 73% of all assaults involve alcohol’ (Family Peace Foundation). The correlation between alcohol and violence however, should not surprise you. Australia has had a long culture of drinking; drinking to excess is a common practice throughout the country. Alcohol fuelled violence, including coward punches, is often a result of drinking to this extent. What is alarming, however, is that since mandatory sentencing has been put into action, the percentage of abuse by age towards others between the ages of 15 to 34, has remained constant at nearly 50% of cases. What may be implicitly daunting, is that the rates of coward punches are likely to increase. From retrospect, the majority of coward punch cases have occurred between the ages of 18-30. The link between these statistics is that since the rates of abuse by age has essentially been increasing for this age group; with the involvement of alcohol in such incidents occurring in as much as 73% of cases; coward punches are still going to be in issue in Australia. As research from the Australian government’s Sentencing Advisory Council shows, such mandatory sentences ‘does not produce a corresponding increase in deterrence’.

What message does this provide for legislation then? Has mandatory sentencing actually fulfilled its purpose in society. Does any individual in a brawl – whether they’re under or not under the influence of alcohol – likely to think “Wait, I could get a mandatory sentence for assaulting this person”. In the heat of the moment, I highly doubt it. While people should do this, it’s ignorant to suggest this would be the reality of such situations. Legislation urgently needs to rethink its strategy of a mandatory sentence, demonstrating its incompetence in an ever-sustaining culture of drunkenness.

The mandatory sentence, proving to be an insufficient statute to reduce crime, does not provide to an extent, justice to families of victims and to the perpetrator. Rather, it is likely to encroach civil liberties and perplex the law system in courts. Thomas Kelly’s death back in 2012 from a coward punch, involved an intricate process that highlighted the necessity to reflect on a variety of factors influencing the 18 year old’s death. These factors include; ‘general and specific deterrence, retribution and denunciation and also rehabilitation’.

Mandatory sentences implemented into many State’s Sentencing Act, can never reflect the combination of these factors. They thus cannot achieve both ‘individualized justice and general consistency in sentencing outcomes’. The court observing in Kelly’s case, that “it is not meaningful to speak of one-punch or single-punch manslaughter cases as constituting a single class of offences”. The observation substantiates the inappropriate nature of mandatory sentences that disproportionately narrows a wide variation in circumstances of cases like Kelly’s.

The notion of mandatory sentences was created as an overreaction to public fear and outrage, who believed judges tend to be soft on criminals. The consequences involved the provision of lower sentences than the public would have liked. Yes, Legislation intervening with a mandatory sentence does provide a public message that this is a serious crime. But without judicial discretion, the extent to which justice is achieved can be significantly miscarried. This can cause judges to give ‘disproportionately tough sentences when the circumstances may demand more leniency’.

While judges must have the flexibility to impose punishment in proportion to the crime, we must have more faith in the expertise of the judiciary. Abandoning such a principle is too important to the sentencing of each individual crime.

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Mandatory Sentencing – Judicial Response To Alcohol‐Fuelled Violence. (2019, Apr 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/mandatory-sentencing-judicial-response-to-alcohol%e2%80%90fuelled-violence/
“Mandatory Sentencing – Judicial Response To Alcohol‐Fuelled Violence.” GradesFixer, 10 Apr. 2019, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/mandatory-sentencing-judicial-response-to-alcohol%e2%80%90fuelled-violence/
Mandatory Sentencing – Judicial Response To Alcohol‐Fuelled Violence. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/mandatory-sentencing-judicial-response-to-alcohol%e2%80%90fuelled-violence/> [Accessed 27 Sept. 2020].
Mandatory Sentencing – Judicial Response To Alcohol‐Fuelled Violence [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Apr 10 [cited 2020 Sept 27]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/mandatory-sentencing-judicial-response-to-alcohol%e2%80%90fuelled-violence/
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