Leigh was a happy and vibrant 15 year old teenager with a promising football future. His life was tragically cut short in 1999 when he died after consuming alcohol that was supplied to him by another parent.
Bruce and Lorraine Clark were like most parents- loving caring and responsible. They had 3 sons and Leigh was the middle child- a fun loving teenager who was popular with his mates.
On the night of 13th August, Leigh had planned to go to an alcohol- free event at a local hall in Melton. He would meet his mates at Mc Donald’s, walk to the dance with his friends and be dropped back home later that evening. When Bruce and Lorraine said goodbye to Leigh on the Friday night, they had faith that he would return home to them safely. Sadly it was the last time they would see him alive. When they woke up on that cold rainy Saturday morning and Leigh had not come home, they knew something had gone terribly wrong.
After 2 days of searching with family and friends, Leigh was found dead in a cold wet paddock near a shopping centre. The coroner found that the cause of death was hypothermia in a setting of acute intoxication. Bruce and Lorraine woke to every parent’s nightmare that would change their lives forever and ignite a campaign with The Australian Drug Foundation to reform Victoria’s liquor laws to prevent the same tragedy happening to another child.
The details surrounding Leigh’s death were emerging. Leigh had made a detour on the way to the dance after some friends asked him back to their house. The mother of one of the friends took them to a bottle shop where she purchased a bottle of vodka essence for them to consume at home. The dangerous essence (which Bruce has since successfully campaigned to have removed from shelves) had an alcohol content of 80% by volume which the boys mixed with soft drink. The final concentration would be equivalent to full strength vodka.
When the boys returned to McDonald’s, Leigh was severely intoxicated and decided to walk home. He collapsed 300 metres away and died in a rain soaked paddock.
The parent was eventually fined $200 for purchasing the alcohol from the bottle shop for the boys to consume at her home. Because Leigh was given the alcohol in his friend’s house and because there is
no liquor laws in Victoria to protect minors from the supply of alcohol in a private residence, no charges could be laid against anyone supplying the alcohol to Leigh.
Bruce made two promises after losing his son:
Bruce has since taken on many important roles in the community surrounding alcohol and young people, including being on the working party committee for the NHRMC Australian Alcohol Guidelines.
While his first promise had been achieved, it has taken a further 10 years to finally have victory. Keep em safe has been campaigning with the Leigh Clark Foundation and Australian Drug Foundation for many years and as a result, the Victorian government in November 2011 has introduced legislation to protect minors from secondary supply of alcohol in a private residence.( see links below ). Other states are also moving to close this loophole and the issue is currently on the Federal government agenda.
The 15th of August 2012 will mark the 13th anniversary of Leigh’s death.
We can all learn an important lesson by what happened to Leigh. His story is a tragic reminder of the risks and dangers alcohol poses to minors. We can only thank Bruce and Lorraine for their dedication to preventing the same tragedy happening to our children.
The memory of Leigh will always be etched in the legacy of future positive changes to prevent alcohol related harm in our young generation.
PRESS RELEASE-Click on link below for further info
“From November 2011 it will be illegal to supply alcohol to anyone under 18 in your home,unless you have their parent’s permission.
Click on the link below to learn more about the new teen drinking law.
PRESS RELEASE-Click on link below