New South Wales's most senior magistrate has warned that alcohol-fuelled violence has reached "epidemic proportions" and the community is "fed up" with the perpetrators.
The latest figures show that each year as many as 70,000 people are involved in alcohol-related assaults, which cost the community $187 million annually.
Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson takes the view that education is as important as punishment in dealing with repeat offenders.
In an exclusive interview with Four Corners, he suggested a program where offenders are forced to meet victims of alcohol-fuelled attacks so they can see the devastating consequences first hand.
"It wouldn't be, in my view, a bad idea to send repeat offenders into programs such as that where they confront the tragic consequences of people who have suffered innocently at the hands of violent people so they have an insight into 'this is not just a Saturday night out, this is a life-changing activity'," he said.
Judge Henson says he would be happy to talk to NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith about putting such a program in place.
He says one of the problems is there are more people out for longer periods of time in licensed premises.
"The potentiality for people right across the spectrum to get involved in alcohol-related crime has increased correspondingly," he said.
"The obvious lesson is don't drink yourself into a state of intoxication where your moral restraint goes out the window and you become, as a lot of people do under the influence of alcohol, more disposed to violence.
"I mean whatever or however you try to dress it up, whether it be by people who are on licensed premises or otherwise, it is the quantity of alcohol that starts to push people across the threshold of participating in acts of violence."
Judge Henson also warns the violence has become more extreme.
"Fifteen, 20 years ago, a common act of this nature would be a punch, then people would walk away or run away as the case may be," he said.
"Now the violence tends to be ongoing. It tends to involve knocking people to the ground. It tends to involve kicking and stamping on somebody who is curled up in a foetal position on the ground."
He says while the problem is complex, a solution may lie within the education system.
"We never educate our children as to the consequences of their behaviour as a young adult, including the consequences of imprisonment, the loss of prospects of employment or advancing of career," he said.
"We just put them through an education system, we let them out the door when they turn 18 and we hope for the best. Sometimes that produces the worst."
Country in crisis
Trauma doctors and neurosurgeons have told Four Corners that while they are not necessarily seeing more assaults, the cases are much more severe.
They claim many emergency hospital units across the country are full on weekends with alcohol-related injuries.
Neurosurgeon Brian Owler, who is also the NSW president of the Australian Medical Association, warns Australia is not facing a crisis but has "been in a crisis for a long time".
"When you see 70,000 cases of alcohol-related violence, 24,000 cases of alcohol-related domestic violence and 20,000 cases of alcohol-related substantiated cases of child abuse, Australian society has a crisis with the harmful effects of alcohol," he said.
Professor Owler says he would like to see more trials rolled out to try and curb the violence.
Under a trial in Newcastle in 2008, most hotels were forced to close at 3.30am rather than 5am, lock-outs were introduced after 1.30am and there was a ban on shots and doubles after 10pm.
That trial resulted in a 37 per cent decrease in assaults.
New research to be published soon by Dr John Wiggers, professor of the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle, shows Newcastle emergency department hospital admissions have fallen 26 per cent and general street offences have dropped 50 per cent.
For more on this story, watch the program Punch Drunk on ABC1 at 8.30pm.