WAGGA’S top cop says it is by “sheer luck” innocent lives have been spared by coward punches thrown in the city’s hotels.
Declaring the issue as one of the most important facing Wagga, Superintendent Bob Noble said the fatal one-punch attack on Cole Miller in Brisbane was a tragic reminder of the grave consequences dealt by alcohol-fuelled violence.
Superintendent Noble said violence in pubs and clubs and on the streets was something Wagga knew all too well – and was surprised the city didn’t confront death or serious injury due to striking more frequently.
“We see week in, week out incidents in and around the hotels in Wagga,” he said.
“Often I have the opportunity to review some of the CCTV footage and speak to some of the victims – and I can say it’s by sheer luck we don’t see more of these things.
“It’s pure chance we don’t see more death or serious injury.”
Community expectations in response to one-punch attacks sharpened dramatically after repeat killings in Sydney nightspots.
It prompted a raft of new legislation in 2013 that tightened licencing laws and, significantly, introduced a 20-year maximum sentence for anyone who unlawfully assaults another who dies as a direct or indirect result of the assault.
A 25-year maximum sentence applies if the offender is affected by alcohol or drugs.
Superintendent Noble was clear-eyed when he said the excuse of an accident under alcohol didn’t wash.
“It’s recklessness,” he said.
“There’s people out there that seem to have a destructive impulse … they want to cause harm. The public shouldn’t stand it.”
Wagga Base Hospital emergency department director Dr Shane Curran said the hospital was in a fortunate position where it didn’t have to frequently treat head trauma patients relating to coward punches.
But Dr Curran warned that throwing a punch was akin to traversing into the medical unknown.
“Any isolated head trauma can be very severe and there is no way of predicting what the medical outcome might be,” he said.
Wagga boxer Joe Williams said it was a “cop out” young men were filled with testosterone and needed to let off steam.
“They think it’s manly, but it’s not manly at all,” he said. “Hitting someone in the head is like hitting them with a bat. It could kill.”