July 13, 2012 | In: News
Punch Me Not
Allow me to be serious for a minute. There’s been a couple of stories in the news this past week that have got me thinking. Both stories centered around the unprovoked attacks of one man on another.
Last weekend, Sydney teenager Thomas Kelly, on his first visit to Sydney’s Kings Cross district, was king-hit by an unknown man while out with friends. Kelly later died in hospital. His parents forced to make the hardest decision a parent could make and turned off his life support. Police are still searching for the attacker.
In other news, the Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory announced they will introduce a three-month minimum jail sentence for anyone convicted of assaulting someone who is performing a public service if elected to government next month. The announcement came in the wake of another attack of a Taxi driver in Darwin.
Let me say that I support the proposed new law. I think it’s a great idea. In light of the Thomas Kelly incident, and similar stories of bashings and assaults appearing in the news with alarming regularity, I find myself asking, could the new law not go further? How about, mandatory three-month jail sentence for anyone convicted of assautling another human being?
I can honestly say, I’ve never punched anyone in anger. That’s not to say I’ve never been in a fight. It’s just that the fight was decidedly one directional.
I remember a night out several years ago, coincidentally while I was living in Darwin, that a young man, seemingly perplexed by exactly “what the fuck I was looking at”, decided he would punch me in the face. This split my nose and brought about a stream of blood.
Despite the attack, I didn’t punch him back. I remember being more shocked than anything. After the punch, and upon seeing me grab my nose rather than his neck, my attacker seemed content to just move on down the road. Perhaps he was just being polite and allowing me to finish the hamburger I was half way through. Who knows why he did it. Perhaps he was a staunch vegetarian and upon seeing me tucking my face into some dead cow decided he would punch it to teach it a lesson. I doubt it.
The thing is though, I got the feeling I was not his first or last victim for the night. He struck me, pardon the pun, as the kind of guy who’s idea of a fun night out was to wander the streets looking to start fights. I’ve never understood this mentality. I don’t know where it stems from and without spending four years at university getting a psychology degree, I can only speculate. For now I’ll just assume it was because I had a hamburger and he didn’t.
What troubled me even more than the punch was the events that followed. It just so happened that a police car was driving past at the time and saw the incident. They managed to stop the guy and got his details. I don’t think they arrested him. They came over to talk to me about what had happened and asked if I’d like to press charges. Before I could answer, a fellow punter, who had watched the guy hit me, chimed in. “Ha ha, charges? Come on mate, it was just a little love tap!” he scoffed. I heard this as I reached for another napkin to mop up the blood still streaming from my nose and it made me more angry than getting punched in the face.
Annoyingly, I let this dissuade me from pressing charges. I remember thinking, maybe this guy’s right. Maybe I’m over-reacting by pressing charges. Maybe I should just toughen up. Maybe it was the realisation that my key witness in the whole affair was seemingly in support of people punching people for eating hamburgers. Whatever the reason I didn’t press charges.
The reason this bystanders comments made me so angry is what it said to me about the world we live in. It said to me is that society, particularly young male culture, says that as long as someone only gets a split nose or a black eye, that it’s just part of life and that it’s going to happen every now and then. We should just accept it. This infuriates me.
The guy who punched Thomas Kelly was doing exactly the same thing as the guy who punched me. The consequences however will be much different. I hope they catch the guy and lock him up. There is absolutely no justification for that type of senselss violence. It pleases me to think there’s one less person wandering the streets punching people for the fun. It’s just a tragedy that a young man had to die in order for it to happen.
Sadly, it seems the only time action is taken is when someone is killed or seriously harmed. We all know this type of behavior goes on every Friday and Saturday night around the country and that it’s only a matter of time before it happens again. I’ve no doubt someone will be punched for no reason this weekend and it will go unreported, unnoticed and unpunished.
I applaud the proposal by the CLP to introduced mandatory three month jail terms for people convicted of assault against people performing a public service. These people in particular need protection. Whether they drive a taxi, drive a bus, work in a bar or a bank, people shouldn’t have to face violence at work.
I’d like to see us take it one step further and introduce mandatory sentencing for anyone convicted of assault against another person. Three months may be a bit much, so I’d suggest trialing a one month mandatory sentence. You want to punch someone, you get a one month suspension from society. Hell, if they can do it in the AFL, surely we can get there as a society.
A key thing to remember is that this only applies to people convicted of assault. The key word being convicted. This means that if someone breaks into your house and starts hurting your family and you punch the guy, you would likely not be convicted as it would be a case of personal protection / self defence.
What do you think? Is mandatory sentencing going too far? Do you think it’s OK to ‘punch on’ on a night out? Is violence just a fact of life? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.