Aussie state cracks down on drunkenness, drugs as 'special reasons' to avoid jail

Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews told local media that it was about "sending the message to the Victorian community that if you think you can go and be drunk and behave this way and somehow be treated differently and get off, no, you will go to jail
Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews told local media that it was about "sending the message to the Victorian community that if you think you can go and be drunk and behave this way and somehow be treated differently and get off, no, you will go to jail".PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (XINHUA) - Drunkenness and drug use will no longer count as "special reasons" to avoid jail time in Australia's Victoria state under proposed changes to the law, authorities said on Tuesday (May 22).

The decision came after two women who assaulted paramedics last year (2017) escaped mandatory prison sentences earlier this month under the "special reasons" provision, which includes allowing offenders to use alcohol and drug impairment to be exempted from jail.

The state's Premier Daniel Andrews told local media that it was about "sending the message to the Victorian community that if you think you can go and be drunk and behave this way and somehow be treated differently and get off, no, you will go to jail".

"If you are on ice or some other drug and you think that is somehow going to get you out of being held to account for injuring an emergency service worker, no, that won't get you out either," said Mr Andrews, using the common name for the crystal methamphetamine synthetic drug.

Under the proposed changes, "psychosocial immaturity" will also not count as a special reason for offenders aged between 18 and 21, while traumatic childhoods will count less as mitigating factors in court.

People with mental health issues and psychosis will still be able to plead not guilty on those grounds, Mr Andrews said.

The changes are set to be introduced in parliament in June.

The state government is also looking to tighten legislation on offences against emergency workers such as police officers, nurses and doctors with assault of emergency workers lifted to the highest order of offending, the same as murder and rape, incurring a custodial prison sentence with a maximum of five years.

"We will do everything we can to protect those who protect us. This sends the strongest possible message, if you attack and injure an emergency worker, you will go to jail," said Mr Andrews, adding that he believed the new laws will force Victorians to think twice before they commit violence against people who try to help them.