This may seem to be an unusual blog topic coming from a person who makes his living on the basis of crimes being committed, but as well as being a criminal lawyer I also care about my family and friends and my community in general. I can't disconnect from them, because of the job I do.
In mid-February, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures stating that the number of physical assaults in Australia had jumped a whopping 44 per cent in one year to 2.2 million assaults.
2.2 million!! That should have been the lead story on every news bulletin across the land.
Now one in every 30 odd Australians over the age of 15 years was the victim of a physical assault in the last year.
On anyone's scale those are extraordinary figures and suggests a society akin to medieval England or the wild west of the US in its heyday, not modern Australia.
So what do we attribute these eye-widening numbers to?
I can only offer an opinion based on my criminal law practice and although there are no doubt many factors that contribute to those figures, the greatest contributing factor I believe is alcohol.
I would say about 75 per cent or even more of my criminal practice is dealing with defendants where alcohol has been a significant factor in them committing a crime.
Whether it is defendants jumping in their car and driving after drinking, people getting into pub fights after drinking, people damaging property on the way home drunk, people at home drunk assaulting their partner or family members, someone drunk trying to sexually assault someone, etc. I just see alcohol as a recurring factor time and time again.
Alcohol is becoming more and more readily available in our society. More outlets to purchase from, more alcohol super marts, more venues serving alcohol and opening longer and longer hours, the alcohol is becoming cheaper and cheaper and there are more choices of alcoholic beverage, especially for young people starting out.
The days of having to acquire a taste for beer, wine or spirits is long gone. These days you can get an alcoholic drink that tastes like Coke, Fanta, orange juice or a chocolate milkshake.
Now I am no wowser, I drink casually and like most Australians behave appropriately when doing so. But a lot of people can't and a lot of people don't.
I see in my practice everyday, honest, hardworking Australians who would normally never act anti-socially, yet they come to me for help having been charged by the police after making a ‘‘brain snap’’ decision whilst under the influence of alcohol.
I don’t believe these assault figures will decrease until we have governments in power willing to say ‘‘hey, the cost of the increased prevalence of alcohol to individuals, families, our community and our society far outweigh the taxes raised or lobby groups appeased’’.
I'd be interested to know what my readers think of my reasoning for the extraordinary assault numbers.
Am I way off the mark blaming alcohol? Do you have a different reason for the massive rise in recent years?
Craig Borg, Borg Lawyers: www.borglawyers.com.au; firstname.lastname@example.org; 1800800300
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