Western Australians are being warned that throwing just one punch could lead to up to 10 years in jail if the victim is killed.
Premier Alan Carpenter today launched a $490,000 public awareness campaign to make people aware of the consequences of one punch attacks under tough new State Government laws which came into effect on Friday.
“These TV ads encourage people who find themselves about to throw a punch, to walk away or else face the prospect of killing someone and doing serious jail time,” Mr Carpenter said.
“If we can save even one life by getting this information out to people, then the campaign will have been a success. I hope we can save many lives.
“Two adverts, one where a young man throws a punch and kills his victim, and the other where he walks away, show the difference these types of split-second decisions can make to your life.”
‘One punch’ deaths are now covered by a new offence in the WA Criminal Code called unlawful assault causing death - an Australian first.
Attorney General Jim McGinty said that under the new law, it did not matter whether the death was foreseeable or whether the attacker actually intended to kill.
“If the victim dies, the attacker can be held accountable for that death and be liable for up to 10 years’ imprisonment,” Mr McGinty said.
“There have been several high profile ‘one punch’ cases in WA where attackers have been acquitted of manslaughter because it could not be proved that they could have foreseen their actions would cause their victims to die.
“The victims’ families have been rightfully outraged that the people they hold responsible for their loved ones’ deaths have not been convicted of a crime.
“This new offence reinforces community expectations that violent attacks, such as a blow to the head, are unacceptable. When people die as a result of such attacks, their attackers will now be held accountable for the full consequences of their violence.”
The ‘one punch’ legislation is part of the Criminal Law Amendment (Homicide) Act 2008, which came into effect on Friday and is expected to result in more assault convictions.
The campaign comprises TV adverts and posters and coasters in drinking venues and will run through until November.
Other significant changes in the Act include:
· the consolidation of the charges of murder and wilful murder into one charge of murder. The minimum non-parole period for murder has increased from seven to 10 years and for the first time there is no cap on the non-parole period of a murder sentence;
· the laws regarding self-defence have been significantly expanded to ensure people who kill as a genuine means of self-preservation or to protect others, are not treated as criminals;
· where an accused person has genuinely killed in self-defence, but made an error of judgment in assessing the appropriate response or force, a partial defence of excessive self-defence is now available. If successfully argued, this will see a charge of murder reduced to manslaughter;
· the partial defence of provocation has been abolished for homicide cases, as it condoned violence and is better dealt with in sentencing;
· the offence of infanticide has been removed, because it can more adequately be dealt with by the new murder offence combined with discretion in sentencing;
· a new offence of culpable driving (other than of a motor vehicle) causing death or grievous bodily harm has been introduced, similar to dangerous driving causing death; and
· the maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death has risen from four years’ imprisonment to 10 years.
The new laws were developed after the Law Reform Commission of WA made a series of recommendations to the Government last year.
Premier’s office - 9222 9475
Attorney General’s office - 9422 3000