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New Sentencing Regime to be introduced for ‘King Hit’ Cases

NSW Parliament is considering introducing a new offence of ‘unlawful assault causing death’ following public outrage over the sentence imposed in the Thomas Kelly case.

Thomas Kelly was king hit in Sydney’s Kings Cross region by Kieran Loveridge in July 2012. Loveridge was sentenced to only six (6) years imprisonment with a non-parole period of four (4) years following his conviction for manslaughter.

The difficulty the Prosecution faced in this case was proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Loveridge could have reasonably foreseen the death of Kelly as a result of the assault.

NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, claims that the proposed laws in NSW “will send the strongest message to violent and drunken thugs assaulting people is not a right of passage on a boozy night out. Your behaviour can have the most serious consequences and the community expects you to pay a heavy price for your actions”.

So called ‘one punch laws’ have been enacted in Western Australia (2008) and the Northern Territory (2012) following intense media coverage of cases similar to the Kelly case. In those jurisdictions, one punch laws provide that where a person assaults another and that person dies as a result, the person is guilty of the offence of ‘unlawful assault causing death’ and is liable to imprisonment for up to ten (10) years in Western Australia and sixteen (16) years in the Northern Territory. However, there have been no sentences under the one punch laws in Western Australia of greater than five (5) years, with most being only two (2) or three (3) years.

The proposed NSW laws would haveĀ a lower maximum penalty than that of manslaughter, which presently has a maximum penalty of twenty-five (25) years imprisonment. For this reason the NSW Law Society argues that the answer isn’t in introducing new legislation imposing a mandatory sentencing requirement. Instead they have requested that the Supreme Court of New South Wales provide a guideline judgement to provide greater clarity and certainty in lower Court judgements.

In the past mandatory sentencing has been opposed for failing to lead to a reduction in crime globally; for reducing incentives to plead guilty; resulting in longer sentences of imprisonment; and for being discriminatory for failing to consider the individual circumstances of an offence.

Contact Brazel Moore Lawyers on (02) 4324 7699 for more information about sentencing or criminal law matters.

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