An expensive, ineffective and discriminatory answer to alcohol fuelled violence.

The O’Farrell government’s proposed mandatory sentencing laws for alcohol related violence will see the NSW prison system literally overwhelmed, facing a 50% increase in the prisoner numbers and costing the NSW State government billions of dollars to implement. This is all for a policy that has been a proven failure in deterring crime in every jurisdiction where it has been tried.

O’Farrell’s mandatory sentencing proposals extend far beyond just “one punch” laws. Thousands of cases of more minor offences such as assault occasioning actual bodily harm and assault police will also be subject to arbitrary and unfair mandatory minimum sentences.  To illustrate the kind of conduct that will put people in jail for a minimum of two to three years we have produced this short video:

Mandatory sentences fall hardest on those who come into contact with police the most – indigenous Australians, the homeless and other disadvantaged groups. David’s opinion piece on New Matilda explains the enormously unfair impact these proposed laws will have – read it here

Premier Barry O’Farrell has also shied away from the hard-nosed solutions that would offend the more powerful sections of the alcohol industry. Read the Greens NSW media release on this aspect here.

The reform package has also failed to implement a comprehensive late-night transport strategy to ensure that there is a safe and convenient transport option to help get people home. Read the Greens NSW media release on this aspect here.

Cartoon by Jess Harwood

Cartoon by Jess Harwood


The NSW adult prison population as at August 2013 was 9,970;

In 2014 BOCSAR records show 4,698 convictions for serious assault offences in NSW

There are a further 923 convictions each year for assault police

Police records show 49% of recorded serious assaults and 63% of assault police offences are alcohol related

Currently around 20% of these offenders receive a full time jail sentence

If all those convicted of alcohol related offences automatically receive a minimum 2 year mandatory sentence  then the prison population will swell by an estimated 5,000 new inmates.

Conclusion: These laws are likely to see a 50% increase in the number of prisoners in NSW


This year the NSW government is budgeting $750 hundred million[1] on costs directly related to imprisoning inmates;

A 50% increase in the budget will see additional annual costs of more $375 million for servicing prisons

The costs of new prisons to accommodate the surge in prisoners will be hundreds of millions more.

Conclusion: Over a five year time frame this policy will cost well over $2 billion dollars

Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“Mandatory sentencing for alcohol related offences of violence will likely see the NSW prison population grow by half. That’s an extra 5,000 people locked up in NSW jails.

“The costs of this policy, both socially and in direct budget terms are enormous.

“The amount the NSW government will be spending on adult prisons will increase from $750 million a year to more than $1.1 billion.

“Added to this will be the hundreds of millions required to build new prisons to accommodate the surge in prisoner numbers.

“Over the five year budget cycle, this grossly flawed scheme will cost NSW tax payers well over $2 billion on a policy that we know will fail.

“This is $2 billion that will end up being taken from schools, public transport and hospitals.

“It costs an estimated $73,000 a year to incarcerate an adult, and in most cases of more minor assaults spending this money on treatment, diversion and education would produce far more positive outcomes.

“If it was for a policy that would reduce violence then there might be some sense, but in every jurisdiction where it has been tried mandatory sentencing has failed to deter crime.

“The most recent Australian experience of mandatory sentencing in the Northern Territory saw crime rates rise and the most disadvantaged in society grossly over-represented in convictions and imprisonment.

“These laws will not reduce the number of people being assaulted by drunks, but they will inevitably see thousands more disadvantaged people going to jail,” Mr Shoebridge said.

[1] 2014 NSW Budget papers page 2-14