Tougher steps needed to end drunken violence, group says

VOLUNTARY measures taken by the Byron Liquor Accord to tackle anti-social behaviour need to be made mandatory, a Parliamentary Inquiry will be told.

Byron Bay group Last Drinks at 12, which was set up by community members and businesses in the town to put an end to drunken violence, will argue for the change before an NSW Upper House Inquiry into alcohol abuse among young people.

The group's presentation will be made before a special session of the inquiry at the Byron Sports Complex next Tuesday, October 8, from 10am.

"Research and the experience of other places, both in Australia and overseas, indicates that a significant drop in violence can be achieved by a package of measures including a modest reduction of late-trading hours, purchase limits on drinks and the prohibition of shots and doubles," Last Drinks at 12 spokesman Mick O'Regan said.

"We recognize the initiative of the Byron Bay Liquor Accord in this area, although the voluntary nature of the arrangements makes enforcement a real issue.

"Recent investigations revealed that serious breaches of the Liquor Accord occurredwithin weeks of it being signed. We need these voluntary measures to be made mandatory for all late night trading licensed venues."

Two Byron Bay venues - Aquarius Backpakers and LaLa Land - have landed in strife for breaching liquor laws during a Liquor Accord trial aimed at stemming the violence issue.

Despite that, Liquor Accord chairwoman Hannah Spalding has said there had been a 25% drop in alcohol-related incidents during the trial so far, which still has six months to run.

Mr O'Regan said alcohol-related violence was a serious problem with far-reaching ramifications.

"The statistics on alcohol-related violence for our community are shocking in themselves, but they don't reveal the full story," he said. 

"People at the frontline such as police, doctors, hospital staff and emergency personnel, have to deal with direct effects of alcohol-related harms."  

"In particular the over-supply of alcohol after midnight has produced serious, ongoing problems that the community now has to tackle. 

"Many local residents have been coming forward and telling us their experiences of alcohol related violence and anti-social behavior. Many of these experiences aren't necessarily reflected in the statistics."

Mr O'Regan urged Byron Bay residents to come forward and tell the inquiry their own stories about alcohol-related violence in the town.

"This Inquiry is an important opportunity for the many people affected by alcohol-related harm to be heard and for their ideas to be considered."   

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