Reports today suggest the NSW Government is considering amending the current laws to restrict the circumstances in which parents can supply alcohol to minors.
THE CURRENT LAWS
Currently, the restrictions on providing alcohol to minors are provided for in the Liquor Act 2007. In relation to alcohol in the home, s.117(4) of the Liquor Act 2007 makes it an offence for a person to supply alcohol to a minor. This makes it an offence to supply alcohol to a minor on any premises other than licensed premises. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for 12 months or a fine of $11,000.00.
It is a defence if the person supplying the alcohol is a parent or guardian of the minor, or importantly, if the person was authorised to supply the alcohol to the minor by the parent or guardian of the minor. Section 114(4) and (5). The “authorisation defence” is the subject of the NSW Premier’s current comments.
There is no definition of what constitutes an “authorisation”, however the Act requires that it is for the person charged to establish that they were authorised. As it is an evidential burden, that burden is on the balance of probabilities.
THE CURRENT PROPOSALS
It is unclear what changes, if any, will be proposed. It appears that the Premier has simply requested an inquiry be conducted by the NSW Parliament Social Policy Committee. A report in today’s Sydney Morning Herald indicates that the Government may also consider a new offence specifically targeting those who allow under age drinking to occur in their premises.
Whether or not any new laws are proposed and enacted remains to be seen. Even with new laws, there are obvious detection issues given that most supply the subject of these laws would occur in private premises.
However, this appears to be a response to the recent trend of evidence indicating that providing alcohol to minors, even in moderation in the home, appears to be counter-productive and in fact leads to an increased likelihood of binge drinking and alcohol related problems at later ages.