TANKED up, angry and with a chip on his shoulder the size of a tombstone, Kieran Loveridge told his mates: “I swear I’m gonna bash someone tonight”.
Hours later, 18-year-old Thomas Kelly was on life support and two days later he was dead, the victim of a senseless, cowardly king-hit.
In the court of public opinion, Loveridge’s level of culpability was off the scale.
But in the NSW Supreme Court last week, he received a sentence so abysmally soft – a maximum of seven years – it sparked a snap review of assault laws.
On the same day the sentence was handed down, a man was allegedly king hit in Peel St after an argument with another man inside a local hotel, the fourth serious assault in the city in five days.
The incidents have prompted acting local area police commander Jeff Budd to demand licenced premises lift their game when it comes to patron safety.
Lessening the incidence of alcohol-fuelled violence is a complex issue and hotels in recent years have taken quantum leaps in the responsible service of alcohol.
But more must be done.
One simple step would be for Tamworth hotels to follow the Newcastle model and introduce a strict ID protocol system.
The system, investigated by local councillors earlier this year, has a stunning success rate and widespread support.
The justice system, too, must bring penalties for king-hits into line with community expectations.
A move this week by NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell to allow judges to jail attackers for up to 10 years for a single punch is a good start.
It is an overdue recognition that an attack need not be sustained for it to have deadly consequences.
Of course, these legal changes must be accompanied by a cultural shift by Aussie blokes away from binge drinking and away from physical assault as a means of resolving conflict or letting off steam.
The message is simple yet so powerful: If we can stop one punch being thrown, we can save many lives from being destroyed.