NEWCASTLE’S existing lock out laws should not only remain, but be strengthened, the local health district says.
In its submission to the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s review of the decade-old lock out laws, Hunter New England Health has proposed the existing laws remain the “base level” conditions for all licensed premises, with further restrictions applied to establishments considered at a higher risk of late night assaults.
“Newcastle is a success story, but we haven’t eliminated the problem,” Professor John Wiggers, Hunter New England Health’s director of population health, said.
“Both the police data, and the analysis of our health statistics, indicate that the package of conditions we have has led to a 30 per cent reduction in violence and assaults since 2008.
“But we also recognise, and the state government still declares, Newcastle to be an assault hot spot. Our level of assaults are still greater than the state average. We need to do more to lower that further.”
Further reduced trading hours, mandatory ID scanners that are linked between premises, and stronger monitoring and enforcement of alcohol management plans were among the health service’s recommendations.
Professor Wiggers said the increased restrictions proposed by Hunter New England Health would target late-trading premises, high risk premises, and those with a poor compliance history.
“The evidence says that for every hour of increased trading, there is a 10-to-20 per cent increase in violence, so for those premises that are high risk, or associated with violence, we believe a reduction in trading hours be considered,” he said.
“From a health perspective, there is a demand on our service which is preventable, and it has been prevented by about 30 per cent. We need to do more to reduce that even further. We also need to recognise some people believe they have the right to individual freedoms to engage in alcohol consumption, that’s not to be challenged or denied. But those rights and freedoms need to be balanced against the welfare and the wellbeing of the community.”