Skype to become the latest weapon against alcohol violence

VIOLENT intoxicated offenders in rural and remote Queensland can do mandatory drug and alcohol programs via Skype under new laws expected to pass overnight.

The Safe Night Out laws includes a coward punch law which means prosecutors no longer have to prove an intent to kill during late-night drunken attacks in public.

The legislation also gives police more move-on powers - such as bans from the safe precincts including Airlie Beach, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba and Ipswich - and penalties for those who ignore the orders.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie told Queensland Parliament he wanted his three children to have safe nights out when they were old enough to drink.

He said every Queenslander and visitor had "the right to enjoy our vibrant and diverse night life and feel safe by doing so".

Mr Bleijie said these laws would result in "long-term changes to the culture that leads to anti-social and violent behaviour".

"I want my daughter Taylor to be able to go out, enjoy the night, have a safe night out," he said.

"No parent wants a call that their child has been subjected to a coward punch and worse that their child has lost his life because of some of these thugs who go out to these entertainment precincts.

"The violence has to stop in Queensland. Too many Queenslanders have suffered the devastating effects of drug and alcohol related violence and coward punch incidents."

There is a bail condition requiring intoxicated offenders convicted of grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning grievous bodily harm, wounding and other assault offences to perform community service work as part of their sentence.

These offenders would also, as part of their bail, have to undertake an alcohol or drug assessment, counselling and education session, and can also be referred to other relevant programs

Mr Bleijie also addressed committee concerns that people in regional areas might not be able to meet that bail condition, saying the delivery of the program would be flexible.

"A defendant who lives in a rural or remote location will be able to complete a drug and alcohol assessment and referral course by using a range of communication methods ... this could occur face to face, via video conference or other online options such as Skype technology ," he said.

Opposition police spokesman Bill Byrne said the bill had social implications "in all of our communities" as he labelled the LNP a "marshmallow-tough" government.

The Rockhampton MP said the government had ignored the legal fraternity which opposed many elements of the bill.

"I am very pleased to be opposing this bill because it is weak, wishy-washy and will be ineffective," he said.

"I've never heard anybody at 3am walk up to me in any bar or pub in Queensland ... and say 'crikey I'm thirsty, I've got to keep this bar open till 5am because I'm dying of thirst'.

"The issue of trading hours is the central problem."

Police Minister Jack Dempsey also welcomed the coward punch and police move-on laws.

"No longer will persons who kill others by unlawfully striking them in the head or neck be able to escape significant punishment because it could not be proven the offender intended to kill the victim or the death was foreseen as a probable consequence of their violent actions," the Bundaberg MP said.

"Society rightfully expects that is someone is killed, the offender will be appropriately published for their crime."

Coward punch offences will carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Under the new law, offenders must serve 80% of any sentence less than life imprisonment before they can apply for parole.


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