SAFE NIGHT OUT

Tougher penal­ties for drug and al­co­hol fu­elled vi­o­lence

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

DRINK and drug-af­fected people who start fights or break the law in the Air­lie Beach party precinct will now face tougher penal­ties un­der the Queens­land Govern­ment’s new Safe Night Out Strat­egy.

Air­lie Beach is among 15 lo­ca­tions around the state that have been de­clared ‘safe night precincts’ in a 12-month trial aimed at re­duc­ing drug and al­co­hol-fu­elled vi­o­lence.

Un­der the new strat­egy, coward punch killers could face life im­pris­on­ment with of­fend­ers re­quired to serve 80 per cent of their sen­tences be­fore be­ing el­i­gi­ble for pa­role.

There would also be tougher penal­ties for people be­hav­ing badly or vi­o­lently around li­censed premises. Whit­sun­day MP Ja­son Costi­gan said a draft ac­tion plan was be­ing re- leased for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion, which was open un­til Mon­day, April 21.

Chair­per­son for the Whit­sun­day Liquor Ac­cord and owner of Air­lie’s Mama Africa night­club Stacy Har­vey was gen­er­ally sup­port­ive of the ini­tia­tive.

“From the Liquor Ac­cord point of view, we feel that work­ing closely with all the stake­hold­ers in­volved in­clud­ing li­censed venues, lo­cal po­lice and state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments, to come up with a range of mea­sures all aimed at re­duc­ing vi­o­lence in and around party precincts, is pos­i­tive and es­sen­tially the out­come of this,” she said.

Act­ing In­spec­tor Steve O’Con­nell said po­lice were ex­am­in­ing all the strate­gies that had been put for­ward to see how they could be utilised in Air­lie Beach.

When asked about the level of street or al­co­hol-fu­elled vi­o­lence in the area, he said po­lice dealt with bad be­hav­iour re­sult­ing from over in­tox­i­ca­tion and some drug use on a weekly ba­sis.

“We pro­vide a fairly con­tin­u­ous polic­ing pres­ence in the [Air­lie] main street just about ev­ery night, but cer­tainly the po­lice ac­tions are not about cur­tail­ing any­body’s fun – it’s all about cur­tail­ing in­juries and the dis­rup­tion to other people's en­joy­ment,” he said.

“I think the main point we need to make is how it’s just that re­ally short step from fool­ing around, to be­ing a pub­lic nui­sance to be­ing in a fight and end­ing up in hospi­tal. Hope­fully this new con­cept and some of these strate­gies we’re look­ing at will help us to elim­i­nate some of that.”

A copy of the strat­egy is avail­able at www.qld.gov.au/safenightout.

SAFE STREET: Li­censed taxi owner and driver Trevor Moore, Act­ing In­spec­tor Steve O'Con­nell, Whit­sun­day MP Ja­son Costi­gan and Whit­sun­day Liquor Ac­cord chair­per­son and night­club owner Stacy Har­vey, are all sup­port­ing the State Govern­ment's ini­tia­tive to turn Air­lie Beach into one of 15 'safe night precincts' through­out the state.

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