The operation of Australian "one punch" laws: 2008-2018



Publication Details

J. Quilter, 'The operation of Australian "one punch" laws: 2008-2018' (2019) 43 (4) Criminal Law Journal 239-253.


It is now over a decade since Western Australia enacted in 2008 a discrete homicide offence to address deaths resulting from so-called "one-punch" assaults. Four other jurisdictions subsequently introduced similar laws: the Northern Territory in 2012 and in 2014, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. More than a decade on, it is timely to examine the operation of these laws in practice. This article examines 53 cases finalised during 2008-2018. It highlights six features that may be regarded as unintended consequences or otherwise at odds with the original justifications for their introduction: impact on the prosecution of fatal domestic violence; impact on Indigenous offenders; net widening effects from "classic" one-punch public alcohol-fuelled violence; effect of statutory alterations to common law principles; effects on charging, pleas and alternative verdicts; and sentencing outcomes.

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