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One Punch Mania

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Published under Law Reform, Major Cases, News

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November 20, 2013

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I was recently asked to take part in a television program reporting of the one punch legislation proposals by the Attorney General in the tragic wake of the death of Thomas Kelly.

Whilst one punch can have a tragic result, again the death of Thomas Kelly is an example, in Australia they are a relatively low incidence crime – the results though are anything but low impact.

This week I have been discussing the topic again on a Linked In forum. I was explaining the concept of recklessness and intoxication and how the concepts work together when I was stopped in my tracks by another participant on the forum. This person pointed out to the discussion the alarming ‘game’ of “Knockout”.

Knockout first started in New York several years ago. The essence of the game is to approach a passer-by and hit them to see if you can knock them out. It matters not if the passer-by is black, white, yellow, male, female, young or old, this is a test of strength you see. A number of people have been killed by this infantile, small minded, moronic and criminal behaviour. I have attached a link to the story!. It appears the ‘game’ has also caught on in the UK.

Returning to NSW, I am not a fan of the proposed new one punch law but I must say in the circumstances of Knockout then it has some merit. But, and it s a big but, I still believe the answer is education.

Most of these offences (if not all) will be committed by younger males, who’s brains have not fully developed – research suggests the male brain (on average) does not fully develop until 25 years of age. As it appears Knockout has not yet, and I hope never will, taken hold here, then education about the effects of alcohol, the access to alcohol and the effect of injury and ease of causing very serious injury must be explained through education.

I worked in Victoria as a prosecutor during 2005 – 2007 and during that time this debate was in full swing. The Victorians attacked the problem through publicity and education. It’s interesting to note that Victoria imprisons less people than NSW and therefore wastes less public money on the prison system so it can be diverted to schooling, health and other worthy pursuits.

The DPP, as part of the appeal against the sentence of Kieran Loveridge, will ask the Court of Criminal Appeal for a guideline judgement for this type of offence. The purpose of guideline judgments is to draw attention to important issues at sentencing, so that like cases are dealt with in similar ways. If done effectively, this may limit the current public discontent with the law and the ‘lenient’ sentences being handed down. It would also prevent the creation of an entirely new offence that would operate in largely the same way as existing assault and manslaughter provisions and likely return similar sentences.

There is no single answer to this problem but better education will go a long way to prevent a repeat of Thomas Kelly and hopefully prevent or society participating in Knockout.

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About the Author

John is partner of Armstrong Legal and head of the Criminal Law Division. The experience John possesses, being a high quality mix of defence and prosecution skills, together with his team at Armstrong Legal, mean you can be certain of accurate, dependable and practical advice on how your matter can dealt with.

    1 Comment

  1. Steven Schwarz


    Education about drinking to excess is of zero interest to the people who play “knockout”, including the violent aggressive drunks on the streets most nights. You might be able to compel them to attend classes, but nothing you can do will force them to “buy into” the content of the education. What’s required is less alcohol, reduced hours for licenced premises, stiffer sentences, and more powers to police to deal with random street crime.

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