Byron Bay is the only place in New South Wales to experience a massive increase of in alcohol-related assaults last year, bucking a statewide trend of decline and prompting a police call for Newcastle-style restrictions.
Assaults in the town have increased by 20 per cent since 2010, the highest of anywhere in NSW, with 216 assaults in the town in the 12 months to September last year, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics.
Assaults on police have also increased by 25 per cent, to a total of 20 last year, prompting the Police Association to say it would be ‘negligent’ of the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing (OLGR) not to impose restrictions on the town’s liquor outlets.
The assaults overwhelmingly take place between midnight and 3am.
Of the Bay’s 71 liquor outlets 25 per cent have late closing hours compared to a statewide average of just 15 per cent.
But liquor retailers steadfastly oppose earlier closing hours, or even earlier lockouts.
OLGR has met with the Byron Liquor Accord twice in the past fortnight but has so far failed to identify a single outcome from the meetings, telling Echonetdaily only that an ‘action plan will involve the local council, police, liquor accord and other community stakeholders and identify immediate, medium- and long-term strategies to address alcohol-related issues in Byron Bay’.
The Liquor Accord’s Hannah Spalding echoed those sentiments, saying ‘there’s not one party that will be able to fix the problem and all stakeholders are needed.’
She added that the Accord had yet to discuss the issue of earlier lockouts with OLGR.
But NSW Police Association president Scott Weber said the time for talk is over and OLGR must move immediately to impose Newcastle-style ‘modest restrictions’ on the town’s liquor outlets, including a reduction in trading hours and earlier lockout times.
‘We can’t have these boozed-up thugs ruining one of Australia’s most idyllic towns,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald this morning.
‘The assault levels in Byron Bay are appalling.
‘We’re seeing innocent members of the public getting assaulted by people who’ve had far too much to drink, every single weekend.’
Reduced trading hours, earlier lockouts and a restriction on high-alcohol drinks saw after-dark assault rates in Newcastle plummet by 37 per cent and hospital admissions by 26 per cent.
‘The Newcastle measures are popular and effective in that region. It would be negligent… not to introduce them in Byron and other precincts around the state,’ Mr Weber said.
Read the full Sydney Morning Herald story here: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/byron-bay-a-hot-spot-for-assaults-20130218-2eng6.html#ixzz2LHsauGDO.