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Violent offenders to be banned from West Australian entertainment precincts following death of Giuseppe Raco

By James Carmody and Keane Bourke

People convicted of violent offences in Perth entertainment precincts face being banned from entering those areas for up to five years under new legislation to be introduced next month.

The state government says much of Northbridge, Fremantle, Scarborough, Hillarys, Mandurah, and a large swathe of the Perth CBD including Elizabeth Quay will be included on advice from WA police. 

Those exclusion areas will be labelled Protected Entertainment Precincts, or PEPs — an abbreviation designed to honour nightclub manager Giuseppe “Pep” Raco, a nightclub manager who was killed in an unprovoked one-punch attack in Northbridge in 2020.

A 26-year-old man was sentenced over the attack last year to seven years and six months’ jail for what a judge described as a “terrible example of alcohol-fuelled violence”.

The government thanked Mr Raco’s widow, Enza Raco, for campaigning for the new laws.

Offences set to be covered include murder, sexual penetration without consent, unlawful assault causing death, and drink spiking.

It is expected it would apply to a convicted person for up to a five-year period following their release from prison and a breach of the new law could be met with up to five years in prison or a $12,000 fine.

Police to issue bans for ‘antisocial behaviour’

A government spokesman said police could also order someone to be excluded from a PEP for six months, and “further apply for an order for up to five years”.

Those orders could be applied when “a person behaves in an unlawful, antisocial, disorderly, offensive, indecent and threatening way in a precinct; and the person being in the precinct could cause violence or public disorder or impact the safety of others”.

The penalty for breaching such an order would be up to two years in prison and a $12,000 fine.

Exemptions to PEP exclusions will apply for work, residential, education, health and other approved purposes.

Police Commissioner Col Blanch told Nine Radio the powers to issue a short-term ban would be reserved for police ranked inspector or above.

Harsher penalties ‘defy logic’: lawyer

In a statement, the government said the laws would aim to “protect people going out for a good time, creating safer precincts for everyone”.

But criminal defence lawyer Laura Willox questioned how useful banning offenders would be, saying it “defied logic” to claim they would prevent crime without addressing the underlying issues that lead to offences.

“You can clean up the streets of the convicted offender, only to wait for the next anti-social person who has never been convicted of such an offence to come along and commit a violent type of offence for the first time,” she told ABC Radio Perth.

“People who commit these offences whilst under the influence of alcohol and drugs aren’t really thinking about what the consequences of their actions are going to be, unfortunately.

“Harsher penalties do not result in people committing less crimes. Unfortunately, that is the reality.”

Ms Willox also queried whether the bans could result in shorter prison terms, by adding to the overall punishment facing convicted offenders.

“From a sentencing perspective, it has the effect of a double punishment,” she said.

“That is something that a sentencing judge or magistrate is able to consider when taking into account personal deterrence of that individual, so it could have the effect of reducing a sentence.”

Lord Mayor welcomes crackdown

Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas told ABC Radio Perth the City of Perth had been calling for tougher measures targeting anti-social behaviour for some time.

“These tougher new laws will effectively say to people, if you’ve got a history of carrying on like a boofhead and you want to come to one of our entertainment precincts and carry on like a boofhead, not only are you no longer welcome, in fact now it will be illegal,” he said.

“The tougher we are on these sorts of people, the better, and that’s what our community want.

“People and families should be able to go out into Northbridge, into Scarborough, into Fremantle and not worry about coming home safely at the end of their outing.”

Mr Zempilas also said an increased police presence in the city and Northbridge had already made a difference. 

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