Man charged over alleged one-punch attack in Civic

Police have charged a 20-year-old Braddon man in relation to an alleged one-punch attack on another man in Canberra early on New Year’s Day.

On Friday, ACT Policing released disturbing footage of the alleged assault outside the East Row Supa 24 convenience store shortly before 3am on January 1. 

ACT Policing charged the Braddon man on Friday night after he had earlier handed himself in.

He was released on bail and is to appear in the ACT Magistrates Court on January 15 facing a charge of recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm.

Police are hoping to identify a man who 'coward-punched' another man on New Year's Day in Civic. Photo: Screengrab

Police are hoping to identify a man who 'coward-punched' another man on New Year's Day in Civic. Photo: Screengrab

The Canberra man whose jaw was shattered in the alleged attack said he was surprised he was still alive after he was knocked to the ground during New Year's celebrations in Civic.

The man said he was stressed, in constant pain and hadn't been able to eat or sleep since he underwent emergency surgery for a broken jaw he suffered in the incident.

The attack, which happened days before Brisbane teen Cole Miller died of massive brain injuries after an alleged single-punch assault, sparked renewed calls for the ACT government to rethink one-punch laws and drive deep cultural change over alcohol and violence. 

The CCTV footage shows the victim, also aged in his 20s, in a tense conversation with a man before another steps in and levels him with a swift punch to his jaw. 

The two men walk off as one bystander is seen to rush to the man's aid. Police were called and found the man unconscious a short time later. 

The man, who is recovering from his injuries at home, said doctors had inserted a titanium plate and screws to help fix his broken jaw, which had been wired shut to realign his teeth. 

He said his mind was blank and he couldn't remember what he was speaking to the men about at the time of the incident.

"I honestly didn't think it was that bad at the time. I'm just surprised I'm alive from they way my head hit the ground."

Constable Jarrad Drennan​ described the attack footage as "sickening".

"We're lucky that we're not standing here today talking about a death and that we are talking about an assault.

"So he's lucky – if not a miracle – that he didn't land a certain way."

The footage has prompted a strong reaction on social media and revived a debate on drunken violence similar to that generated in 2014 by a string of alleged one-punch attacks in the ACT.

ACT Policing previously said they were "generally pleased" with New Year's Eve revellers but had been disappointed by the number of young people under the influence of alcohol who stayed in the city into the early hours of the morning.

Police said they publicly released information about the attack for the first time on Friday – a week after it happened – because they had exhausted initial lines of enquiry.

ACT opposition leader Jeremy Hanson said the territory's current assault laws weren't sending a strong enough message and he would continue to examine one-punch laws in other jurisdictions, particularly NSW. 

"These sorts of attacks are abhorrent and we need to have an environment where young people can go out into Civic and feel safe and we've got to send a very clear message to people who are perpetrating these attacks. 

"Any law that we would bring in would need to be evidence-based and proven to have an effect, and not just grand-standing."

Attorney-General Simon Corbell​ said there were no plans to introduce one-punch legislation in the ACT and current laws for offences including common assault and intentionally inflicting grievous bodily harm were adequate.

Mr Corbell said the government would consider potential further reforms to liquor laws, following a broad review of the territory's liquor legislation in 2010, that were laid out in two reform papers issued last year.

ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey​ said the community expected the "inexcusable violence" of one-punch assaults would be met with a firm response from the justice system to deter similar attacks.      

He called for greater powers for police to issue on-the-spot fines for disorderly conduct in and around licensed premises to help address unruly behaviour before it escalated.

Mr Hinchey said Victim Support ACT supported an "unfortunately high" number of people who were seriously affected by alcohol-related street violence. 

"Frequently these victims are young men, whose injuries result in chronic, disabling conditions. I have observed young men whose lives have been ruined by an unprovoked attack involving an aggressor who is intoxicated."

Mr Hinchey said severe disabilities sustained in drunken assaults often had a lifelong impact and could lead to a downward spiral of unemployment and financial disadvantage.

"These stressors have a profound impact on the loved ones of victims, many of whom find themselves unexpectedly caring for their adult children, siblings or partners."

He said the territory government was well-placed to introduce reforms aimed at promoting long-term cultural change related to alcohol consumption, acceptability of violence and substance misuse.

Any information to Crime Stoppers, 1800 333 000 or Quote reference 5904176.