Nothing will bring back their son but the family of one-punch victim Thomas Kelly says NSW is finally "on the road towards justice".
Ralph and Kathy Kelly said they were surprised, amazed and deeply grateful for the raft of measures proposed by the state government on Tuesday, including tougher sentencing laws for alcohol-fuelled violence.
Ralph and Kathy Kelly believe the new laws are a step towards preventing attacks such as the one that killed their son. Photo: Nick Moir
They have campaigned for sentencing reform since Kieran Loveridge received a four-year sentence for the manslaughter of 18-year-old Thomas, who died from a single punch to the head on his first night out in Kings Cross in 2012.
A petition of 142,000 signatures was delivered to the government last week, demanding that intoxication, a victim's age and a victim's indefensibility be "mandatory aggravating factors" that a judge must take into account when sentencing.
Barry O'Farrell went one step further, not only removing voluntary intoxication by drugs or alcohol as a "mitigating factor" when courts determine sentences but also increasing the maximum penalty for violent crimes where drugs or alcohol are aggravating factors.
Victim: Thomas Kelly. Photo: NSW Police Media
He will also seek to introduce an eight year mandatory minimum sentence for those convicted under new one-punch laws where the offender is intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol plus new mandatory minimum sentences for violent assaults where intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol.
"Too often, alcohol abuse and excessive drinking is actually used as a defence in court as an excuse for their criminal behaviour. The time for excuses is over," said Ralph Kelly.
"Nothing can bring back Thomas, or the many other innocent victims of these terrible crimes of violence. But today, we are on the road towards justice."
Mr Kelly said his family's journey started when Thomas was punched on Victoria Road in Kings Cross at 10pm on July 7, 2012, causing him to smash his head on the pavement.
The Kellys attended a meeting soon after with the Homicide Victims Support Group where they sat with 25 other families whose loved ones had been murdered.
"It was clearly made out to us that none of us would receive justice," he said. "At that moment I just sat there looking around the room at all the other people and I thought, 'this simply can't be'. For some reason Thomas's name has resonated with the community and for that it's given us [a] voice to try to do something to make these changes."
Mr Kelly said it was a day when elected officials "finally listened to the will of the people... ahead of the vested interests of lobby groups and powerful organisations".
"Booze-fuelled attacks like the one that took Tom's life won't disappear overnight," he said. "But I firmly believe we can turn the tide. It will take a determined effort from us all - but this is a battle we can't afford to lose."
Former NSW DPP Nicholas Cowdery recently told Fairfax that harsher sentences would not deter would-be criminals, who rarely think about the punishment before they throw a punch.
Leading Sydney barrister Alexander Street, SC, who helped the Kellys formulate their reform proposal, said it was a carefully thought-out strategy to advance fundamental social change.
"It's not a panacea but it's a significant step," he said.