Judges would be able to ignore minimum mandatory sentences in special cases under amendments Labor is proposing to make to the O'Farrell government's controversial sentencing laws that aim to curb alcohol-fuelled violence.
Labor is proposing to amend the government's legislation in the upper house so that just one offence, called "gross violence", will carry a minimum sentence.
The proposal is based on Victorian laws and will allow judges to overlook the minimum mandatory sentence in special circumstances.
Shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch said Labor was "proposing a much more sensible and thought-out strategy than anything offered up by the O'Farrell government".
"The special reasons category is very important to get just outcomes," he said. "This will allow courts to divert from the minimum sentence in substantial and compelling cases."
Labor's amendments will remove the O'Farrell government's proposals for mandatory sentencing for assault causing harm and replace them with a single, catch-all "gross violence" offence borrowed from Victorian legislation.
This single offence will impose a mandatory sentence of five years for "causing serious injury recklessly in circumstances of gross violence" while intoxicated and in a public place. A maximum penalty of 16 years is proposed for offences committed while intoxicated in a public place.
Opposition Leader John Robertson said Labor was putting forward its amendments based on laws passed in Victoria, where they had bipartisan support.
He said the Victorian laws were the result of extensive consultation with police, victims of crime groups and legal experts.
"These are commonsense amendments that will better target crimes involving alcohol-fuelled violence which causes serious injury," he said.
"We have said from day one that we would not play politics with cracking down on alcohol-fuelled violence - but we will put forward laws that we think will better target violent thugs.
"We are yet to see the government provide more police resources and late-night trains that will help crack down on alcohol-fuelled violence."
Labor will need the support of the two Shooters and Fishers Party MPs to get its amendments through the upper house.
Shooters and Fishers Party MP Robert Borsak said that they will support the amendment.
"We are on the record as opposing mandatory sentencing," he said.
Last week, Mr Borsak described the O'Farrell government's mandatory sentencing proposals as a "bridge too far".
Labor said that if its amendments did not get support in the upper house, it would not oppose the government's legislation.
Under Victoria's laws, "serious injury" is defined as an injury (including the cumulative effect of more than one injury) that endangers life; or is substantial and protracted.
"Gross violence" includes conduct whereby an offender has intended or is likely to cause injury or if they have recklessly caused injury.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said Labor's amendments were effectively standard non-parole laws with a different name.
"While the Greens don't support these restrictions on judicial discretion, they are a lesser evil than the government's mandatory sentencing proposals," he said.
"Our task is to do what we can to reduce the damage caused by the law-and-order auction between Labor and the Coalition.
"For that reason we will support Labor's amendments while continuing to oppose the bill."
A spokesman for Premier Barry O'Farrell declined to comment directly on whether the government would support Labor's amendments.
Mr O'Farrell told Parliament the opposition had chosen to side against the community by opposing the government's minimum mandatory sentencing laws.
''Once again the leader of the opposition prefers to play politics instead of putting forward the interests of the public,'' Mr O'Farrell said.
''The public wanted a strong message sent ... culture change not across the entertainment precinct of this city but across this state. The package we outlined in January seeks to do that.''
The story NSW Labor puts forward alternative to minimum mandatory sentence laws first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.