Skip to main content
placeholder image

Public intoxication in NSW: the contours of criminalisation

Journal Article


Download full-text (Open Access)

Abstract


  • This article traces the history of the regulation of public intoxication in

    New South Wales (NSW) from the early 1800s to the present. We argue that

    although the formal legal status of public drunkenness and drinking has

    changed over time, and although different approaches have been prominent at

    different points in the history of NSW, public intoxication has been consistently

    and continuously criminalised for almost two centuries, despite official

    ‘decriminalisation’ in 1979. Shifts in regulatory modalities — including offence

    definitions, police powers, the involvement of local councils and enforcement

    practices — have been associated with significant changes in how the nature of

    the problem of public intoxication is conceived and how the persona of the

    ‘public drunk’ is constructed. Perceived at different times as immoral, annoying

    and pitiable, most recently, individuals who are intoxicated in public are

    increasingly seen as ‘dangerous’ and as posing a risk to other members of the

    community. The threat to public safety and the fear that innocent members of

    the public might be subjected to random violence have become major drivers of

    policymaking and law reform in this area, and have produced a less forgiving

    and more punitive approach to public intoxication.

Publication Date


  • 2015

Citation


  • McNamara, L. J. & Quilter, J. (2015). Public intoxication in NSW: the contours of criminalisation. The Sydney Law Review, 37 (1), 1-35.

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2937&context=lhapapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/1931

Number Of Pages


  • 34

Start Page


  • 1

End Page


  • 35

Volume


  • 37

Issue


  • 1

Place Of Publication


  • Australia

Abstract


  • This article traces the history of the regulation of public intoxication in

    New South Wales (NSW) from the early 1800s to the present. We argue that

    although the formal legal status of public drunkenness and drinking has

    changed over time, and although different approaches have been prominent at

    different points in the history of NSW, public intoxication has been consistently

    and continuously criminalised for almost two centuries, despite official

    ‘decriminalisation’ in 1979. Shifts in regulatory modalities — including offence

    definitions, police powers, the involvement of local councils and enforcement

    practices — have been associated with significant changes in how the nature of

    the problem of public intoxication is conceived and how the persona of the

    ‘public drunk’ is constructed. Perceived at different times as immoral, annoying

    and pitiable, most recently, individuals who are intoxicated in public are

    increasingly seen as ‘dangerous’ and as posing a risk to other members of the

    community. The threat to public safety and the fear that innocent members of

    the public might be subjected to random violence have become major drivers of

    policymaking and law reform in this area, and have produced a less forgiving

    and more punitive approach to public intoxication.

Publication Date


  • 2015

Citation


  • McNamara, L. J. & Quilter, J. (2015). Public intoxication in NSW: the contours of criminalisation. The Sydney Law Review, 37 (1), 1-35.

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2937&context=lhapapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/1931

Number Of Pages


  • 34

Start Page


  • 1

End Page


  • 35

Volume


  • 37

Issue


  • 1

Place Of Publication


  • Australia