A Private Member's Bill sparked by a fatal punch at a Kerikeri pub 15 years ago now has a chance of becoming law.
Northland MP Matt King's Crimes (Coward Punch Causing Death) Amendment Bill was drawn from the Parliamentary ballot on Thursday, to the envy of fellow MPs who've been waiting three terms for a chance to create a new law.
The Bill would create a new offence covering serious assaults causing death, especially a punch to the head known as a ''king hit'' or ''coward's punch''.
King said he couldn't believe his luck in getting a Bill drawn so soon into his first term.
It was prompted by an assault at Kerikeri's Homestead Tavern about 15 years ago, when he was working as a police officer, in which a 60-year-old man from Te Tii was punched without warning in the side of the head by a man almost twice his weight. As the victim fell his head struck a bar leaner.
''He never got up,'' King said.
More recently, in April this year, King was to have been the star witness in the trial of Jaydin Locke, 27, who punched a man in the head during a concert at Kainui Rd Winery.
The victim, a Paihia chef, suffered serious brain and eye injuries and was unable to return to work a year later.
King, who was standing a few metres away, described the attack as ''violent, vicious and bad''.
Locke pleaded guilty on the day the trial was due to start after the charge was reduced from wounding with reckless disregard to injuring with reckless disregard. He is currently serving a 16-month jail term.
King said a new, stand-alone offence was required to send a message about the seriousness of that kind of assault.
He also knew of past cases in which juries had been reluctant to convict an offender of manslaughter even though a death had resulted. A new charge would offer an alternative to juries as well as defence lawyers who wanted to plea-bargain to avoid a trial.
The new charge would carry a maximum sentence of 20 years, placing it between wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (14 years) and manslaughter (life).
It could be next year by the time his Bill was debated, King said. He was planning to ask NZ First for support.
King said the Bill was designed to cover any fatal unprovoked attack delivered without warning. Unlike a similar law passed in Australia after a series of fatal assaults across the Tasman, it was not limited to punches to the head or neck.
If his Bill became law he wanted to see it accompanied by a publicity campaign highlighting the dangers of one-punch assaults and the potential 20-year penalty.
Private Members' Bills are submitted by MPs who are not Ministers and are debated every second Wednesday. Other Bills drawn in Thursday's ballot cover high-powered laser pointers, shark cage diving and second-language learning in schools.