Propped up lockout law figures may not reflect full picture: study

28 August, 2015 by
Aoife Boothroyd

According to a study by University of Adelaide law lecturer Dr Mark Giancaspro, the introduction of South Australia’s 3.00am lockout laws might not be the sole reason as to why levels of alcohol-fuelled violence have dropped in the state.

In a paper published in the Alternative Law Journal, Giancaspro considered the impact of similar initiatives in other Australian states as well as the range of measures that were introduced in SA.

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SA’s Late Night Trading Code of Practice was introduced in 2013 as a means of reducing the incidence of alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour in and around late night licensed venues.

Giancaspro says that when evaluating the effectiveness of the Code, it’s important to understand that it was instigated together with a raft of other measures. These additional measures included: requiring licensed venues to use particular forms of glassware; limiting the drink varieties they can sell at certain times; providing first aid officers and public transport information; and better managing queues outside their premises.

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“In January 2014, just three months after the Code was introduced, the State Government issued a news release identifying a reported 29 percent decrease in alcohol-related admissions to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and a 25 percent decrease in alcohol-related violence and bad behaviour in the city,” says Giancaspro.

“While I commend the State Government for trying to make our pubs and clubs safer after dark, I question its reliance on the available data, which indicates there is no obvious and systemic correlation between the introduction of lockout laws and a reduction in incidences of alcohol-related violence.”

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Giancaspro says that because the lockouts were complemented by the simultaneous introduction of other initiatives as well as increased or improved police enforcement, the reported figures could in fact be “propped up”.

“By comparison, Queensland’s 3.00am lockout was condemned in a Parliamentary Inquiry in 2010. One criminology expert labelled the law ‘a complete, absolute 100 percent failure’,” Giancaspro says.

“The 2.00am lockout trialled in Melbourne in 2008 was similarly shown to have little impact upon alcohol-fuelled antisocial behaviour and was promptly abolished. In fact, there were claims that incidents of assault had increased following the introduction of the lockout. The data relating to the lockout laws in Perth and Sydney does not paint a clear picture either way.

“With around 40 percent of all assaults occurring in or around premises licensed to serve alcohol, and claims from hotels that they are struggling to survive, it’s important for our state – socially and economically – to get this right. Deeper research is needed to more reliably understand the impact of these laws and the range of measures taken,” he says.