On 6 June 2014, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman introduced the Safe Night Out Legislation Amendment Bill 2014.  This Bill amends 12 pieces of Queensland legislation with the intention of reducing alcohol and drug related violence in Queensland’s nightlife.

This blog focuses on the insertion of the new offence to provide for the one punch can kill scenario.

The Bill inserts a new offence into the Queensland Criminal Code, “Unlawful Striking Causing Death”.  This offence is separate to murder or manslaughter and prevents a person from relying on the accident defence.

Presently the law for accident requires an accused person to raise evidence of the accident but once this is done the prosecutor must disprove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused person intended that the event should occur or foresaw that event as a possible outcome or the Crown has to establish that an ordinary person in the position of the accused person would reasonably have foreseen the event as a possible outcome.

A jury when considering the event and making a determination should exclude possibilities that are no more than remote or speculative.  If the defence is raised in a trial, the jury presently will be told that the evidence raises for their consideration the possibility that neither the defendant nor an ordinary person could reasonably have foreseen that the death would occur from the punch or strike delivered by the defendant.

The new offence of “Unlawful Striking Causing Death” specifically removes an accused person of relying on the accident defence.  The explanatory notes which accompany the bill indicate that the new offence prevents a person from attempting to argue that “although the strike was deliberate and wilful, the death of the victim as an ‘accident’.”

The offence provides as defence that a person will not be criminally responsible for unlawful striking causing death if the act is done as part of a socially acceptable function or activity (defined as including a sporting event) and reasonable in the circumstances.

The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.  Unless the Court orders that the term of imprisonment be served as an intensive correction order or as a suspended sentence, the minimum amount of time that a person will spend in custody is either 80% of the person’s term of imprisonment or 15 years whichever is the lesser.

This Amendment Bill has been referred to the Legal Affairs committee for submissions to be made and will come back before parliament later this year.

In all cases involving allegations of assault or street violence it is vital to obtain independent legal advice very quickly.  For example important witnesses or surveillance footage may be lost if a person does not contact a reputable criminal defence firm at an early stage.  This can have major repercussions for mounting a defence to any charge.

If you or someone you know has had the unfortunate experience of being charged after a night out our solicitors would be happy to give them advice in relation to how best to resolve any offences.