The NSW Sentencing Council is considering proposals to change the laws designed to address alcohol-related violence, including whether people who commit crimes while intoxicated should always be treated as more culpable when being sentenced. Like many attention-grabbing quick fixes to society’s ills, this is a really bad idea.
If adopted, the reform could lead to even tougher sentences for crimes committed by people affected by alcohol. Although it’s tempting to think of such crimes as new problems requiring novel solutions, debates about the relationship between alcohol and violence, including how it should be dealt with by criminal laws, are anything but new. Australian researchers, politicians and judges have been grappling with these issues for decades.