A former High Court judge will review Sydney's controversial pub lockout laws

(Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)

After a fortnight of heavy backlash against the NSW lockout laws, the government has announced it has appointed a former High Court Justice Ian Callinan to oversee the evidence-based review.

The review will assess the effectiveness of the 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drink legislation applying to much of Sydney’s CBD including Kings Cross and George Street.

It will also look at the state-wide restriction of take away liquor sales after 10pm.

“The Callinan Review will provide an independent, open and transparent assessment of the state’s liquor laws, focusing on the facts, to advise the NSW Government on the future of these laws in NSW,” Mr Grant said.

“I want to make it clear it does not have a foregone conclusion – it will be guided by the evidence and the experiences of the people of Sydney and NSW.

“Hearing from the public and all interested stakeholders will be a crucial component of the Callinan Review and I encourage anyone who has a view to express it in writing.”

The final report will be presented to the state Government in August 2016 with a response provided before the end of the year.

The review of the laws follows claims by Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie that the laws had destroyed Sydney’s night life, and that a City of Sydney study released last week used flawed data to emphasise the benefits.

The debate over the laws escalated over the weekend after police accused a Sydney wine bar of encouraging “antisocial” behaviour with a blackboard of by-the-glass wines, claimed the business, 10 William Street in Paddington, was in breach of its license conditions, although what the officers claimed they saw has been disputed by diners enjoying a meal there at the time.

Even Sydney mayor Clover Moore backed the wine bar, saying she felt the policing may have been “heavy-handed”.

And the NSW premier has been accused of fudging the figures he quoted in support of the laws in a Facebook post yesterday.

Baird’s post, which has now received more than 11,000 comments, many of them negative and scathing of his government, began by claiming alcohol-related assaults have decreased by 42.2% in the CBD and more than 60% in Kings Cross since the start of the lock-out laws, but the figures have been disputed by the man in charge of the state’s crime figures.

Assaults in Sydney have not decreased by as much as Premier Mike Baird claims, the state’s leading crime number cruncher has said, adding that violence was already in decline before lockout laws were introduced.

Don Weatherburn, director of the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, told ABC local radio that the figures were still substantial but nowhere near the numbers claimed by the premier.

He said assaults down by 20% in the CBD and 40% in Kings Cross and that the lockout laws had accelerated a pre-existing downward trend since 2008, and that both the number of people in Kings Cross and the amount of alcohol consumed had both dropped dramatically.

“The people that used to go to Kings Cross at one or three o’clock in the morning have simply scattered to wherever they came from, and they’re not bumping into the people they would have had a fight with,” he told ABC Radio.

But Dr Weatherburn agrees with Professor Fulde that the “displacement” argument is wrong and alcohol-related violence had not shifted to areas just outside the lockout zones.

“We don’t see any evidence of that. In the early part of the evaluation we saw a brief increase around Darling Harbour, near the casino,” he said.

“People have talked endlessly of an increase of assaults in Newtown; we don’t see any evidence whatsoever of that.”

Professor Fulde said people should remember what the city and Kings Cross were like two years ago, before the new laws were implemented.

“As time passes it’s harder for people to remember just what those days were like – but those of us who work on the frontline, we remember. Quite simply, it was a war zone,” he said.

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