AHA NSW Director of Policing John Green

AHA NSW Director of Policing John Green

THE LGBTI community is the last community that needs to be told a ‘one size fits all approach’ works for everyone.

Yet that is exactly what the police union is parroting when it calls for blanket 1am lockouts and 3am closures of licensed venues in Sydney CBD as a response to street bashings.

Don’t get me wrong, the death of Daniel Christie is a tragedy. He was coward punched on Victoria St, Darlinghurst, just after 9pm on New Year’s Eve – at almost the same spot where Thomas Kelly was attacked in July 2012.

Action does need to be taken – but it needs to be evidence-based.

How would locking the community out of the Oxford or Stonewall at 1am and shutting down Oxford St at 3am have helped in either of these tragedies?

Many in the gay and lesbian community do not even go out until late at night – and party well into the wee hours. Each area in the CBD is different and has its own idiosyncrasies – this needs to be recognised.

A case in point, local police have recently attempted two prosecutions on gay pubs – one for a simulated “69” (fully clothed) by a show running a bingo night and one for a strip- pool comp – both of which were thrown out by the court. Perhaps police need to be more understanding of the flamboyant expression that is signature to some in this community. Blanket solutions aren’t for everyone.

A lot has been said by the police union and others in relation to violence on our streets, and the restrictions imposed on licensed venues during roll-out of the “Newcastle model” for Sydney CBD as a possible solution. Little of it has been factual.

Forget that the NSW Government has already introduced measures in Sydney’s Kings Cross precinct that are tougher than the Newcastle model – and assault rates there are falling even before the introduction of ID scanners in the largest venues in coming months.

Let’s have a look at the facts behind the Newcastle model. In March 2008, conditions were imposed on hotels in Newcastle CBD. These included lockouts, closures, drink restrictions after 10pm and the sale of alcohol to cease 30 minutes before closure. Hoteliers also introduced their own measures – tightening security, for example.

In the year to March 2008, there had been 304 assaults in and around licensed premises in Newcastle. A year later, the impact saw 233 assaults in and around licensed premises in Newcastle – a fall of 23.4 per cent compared to the 2008 figure (these are all Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures, not AHA figures).

However, what is never mentioned is that in the year leading to March 2010, there were 282 assaults in and around Newcastle licensed premises – an increase of 21 per cent from 2009.

Another fact glossed over is that two years after the introduction of the Newcastle model, the city lagged behind the assault reduction rates experienced in and around all licensed premises in NSW. Newcastle fell by 7.2 per cent, but all licensed premises in NSW fell by 18 per cent.

Since 2012, Newcastle’s assault figures have improved but that’s largely due to a new initiative by hoteliers working voluntarily with police. Venues also banded together and introduced their own multi-barring and scanning system – targeting the actual thugs committing the violence.

Similar measures are slated for Kings Cross – a voluntary initiative by hoteliers themselves who thought targeting those doing the wrong thing would work. It does.

Something else never mentioned is that assault levels in and around licensed premises are at their lowest levels in 15 years. Several areas across NSW have seen drops through cooperation rather than an imposition of draconian measures.

For example, in Campbelltown between 2008-2012, assault rates dropped 42.7 per cent; in Gosford 37.7 per cent, in Wollongong 34.6 per cent; and in Newcastle 25.3 per cent.

Newcastle still has problems with pre- fuelling and underage drinking – but this is the same as anywhere else in NSW. Claims to the contrary are wrong.

And despite introducing restrictions, Newcastle continues to lag behind the rest of NSW in terms of reduction in licensed premises- related assaults.

That is the reason a lockout in Sydney CBD, including the Oxford St precinct, would not be effective – even if you ignore the fact it would push thousands more onto our streets with no effective way to get home and adding to the unfortunate “street party” atmosphere in nightlife areas.

The victims of violence deserve much better.

John Green is the Australian Hotel Association NSW’s Director of Policing. He has stated that AHA NSW has not donated to either major political party for over three years.

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Scott Weber from the Police Association of New South Wales’ opinion piece is here.

Dr Anthony J Chambers, a trauma surgeon from St Vincent’s hospital is here.

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