There has been widespread media interest this week in relation to laws relating to one-punch assaults (see King-hit deaths prompt new law push, The Age, 2 December 2013).
While Loddon Campaspe CLC recognizes the hurt and anguish experienced by the victims of such violence we believe that existing laws are sufficient to enable appropriate prosecuting and sentencing to occur. There are a range of charges open to police and sufficient latitude for the courts to impose sentences as warranted by the particular facts of each case.
As indicated by State Attorney General Robert Clark earlier this week, manslaughter charges can, for example, be an appropriate charge where a king-hit results in death. According to the Sentencing Advisory Council, Statistics show that between 2007–08 and 2011–12, 97 people were sentenced for manslaughter in Victoria’s higher courts.
The majority of the people sentenced for manslaughter received a period of imprisonment (89%). Total effective imprisonment lengths ranged from 3 years and 6 months with a non-parole period of 1 year and 6 months to 14 years with a non-parole period of 10 years. The most common sentence of imprisonment was 10 years with a non-parole period of 7 years.* These figures show that judges can impose serious sentences where the offending is egregious.
Obviously, the apparent trend of video recording king-hits beggars belief. Not only is it disgraceful, it is profoundly stupid given the implications of such evidence. Offenders might as well hand themselves into police on the way home from the pub. Then again, if people are hell bent on offending in this manner, perhaps fast-tracking the prosecution process isn’t such a bad thing.
Clearly there are cultural issues that we need to deal with as a community to address the drivers of this behaviour.
Peter Noble: Lawyer and Executive Officer, Advocacy and Rights Centre