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Some punches hurt more than others

Adrenalin, emotions, alcohol, testosterone and drugs can all – individually and collectively - produce powerful, potentially lethal chemical reactions in the human body.

Each and every one of these factors can stimulate violence resulting in serious injury and death. Combine them all and hell breaks loose.

In NSW though, alcohol-related violence has been isolated for special punishment. One punch resulting in death from anyone who has been drinking can lead to a minimum eight-year sentence.

21-year-old Hugh Garth has been remanded in custody, accused of the “one punch death” of nursing graduate Raynor Manalad. He died after he was punched in the head at a party in Rooty Hill.

Police claim Garth had been drinking a bottle of Southern Comfort before the alleged attack.

I won’t preempt the outcome of Garth’s case but his arrest brings into sharp focus the raging debate over the Bondi Biffo involving billionaire James Packer and Nine Network chief David Gyngell.

Apparently under the glare of the early afternoon Bondi sun on Sunday, May 4, neither had been drinking. This blue was apparently fuelled by strong emotions. It has been rumoured relations between the two power players had been strained if not bitter for at least two years before their now infamous barney.

As the comprehensive photographic account of the altercation clearly shows – the tension exploded. Shocked witnesses could do little but watch-on in horror (as one clocked up a cool $10,000 a second on his camera.)

But for the grace of God the reckless indifference of the combatants did not result in one or both landing heavily, head first into the concrete driveway, cement footpath or rendered brickwork all around them. When the fists are flying with such unbridled fury there’s barely the time or inclination to thoughtfully steer the target from harm’s way.

On this occasion both men managed to walk away – with egos, reputations and at least one eye bruised. One can only imagine the repercussions if Packer had been a much smaller, weaker man. He could easily have been heavily concussed and rushed to hospital with a fractured skull depending on where he landed.

As it happens both men have been issued with a criminal infringement notice, meaning their recent punches to the head have been treated with a slap on the wrist from a legal system now even more notorious for its outrageous inconsistencies.

For proof of the caprice created by the statutes one need not look any further than the Summary Offences and Crimes Acts and the wide margin for interpretation left for police.

The offence of affray under the Crimes Act says: “A person who uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another and whose conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his or her personal safety is guilty of affray and liable to imprisonment for 10 years.”

But Gyngell and Packer were issued $500 fines under the Summary Offences Act for Offensive Behaviour which has been defined by the Courts as behaviour which ‘must be calculated to wound the feelings, arouse anger, or resentment or disgust or outrage in the mind of the reasonable person’. The ‘reasonable person’ must not be “thin-skinned.”

Both men have lived to fight another day, as it were, but hundreds of others in strikingly similar circumstances have not been, and won’t be, so fortunate.

Australian Criminal Law Specialists

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"He's got a very good tactical mind and is good with strategy ... great advocacy and comes to grips with the evidence."

The Sunday Telegraph, 2013