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Assault In Canberra

An assault occurs when a person touches another person without their consent. In the ACT, all assault offences are set out in the Crimes Act where they are referred to as offences against the person. Assault matters are treated very seriously by the courts. This article outlines the offences related to assault in Canberra and surrounds.


Common Assault | Grievous Bodily Harm | Defences

Common Assault in Canberra

A common assault is an assault that occurs without aggravating circumstances. It may consist of slapping, pushing or punching a person, where the victim is not injured. A common assault may even consist of the threat of force only – for example, by raising a fist in a way that causes the victim to fear that they are going to be struck.

A common assault is punishable by up to two years imprisonment.

Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm

An assault occasioning actual bodily harm is an assault that causes bodily injury to the victim, for example, a scratch or a bruise. This offence is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

Inflicting Actual Bodily Harm

Inflicting actual bodily harm carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment. This offence is aggravated if the victim is a pregnant woman and the assault results in the loss of her child. The aggravated offence carries a maximum of seven years imprisonment.

Grievous Bodily Harm

It is an offence to inflict or threaten to inflict grievous bodily harm on another person. This is punishable by five years imprisonment. Grievous bodily harm (GBH) is a really serious injury including brain damage, jaw or skull fractures or severe lacerations or burns that require surgery or nerve reconstruction.

Causing grievous bodily harm can attract up to five years imprisonment in the ACT, while intentionally causing GBH is punishable by a maximum of 20 years imprisonment (or 25 years if the victim is pregnant).

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Assault With Intent To Commit Offences

A person who commits an assault With Intent To Commit Other Offences is liable to a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. This offence occurs when a person assaults another person in an attempt to steal or commit another indictable offence.


The offence of wounding occurs when a person is assaulted and sustains an injury where the skin is broken such as a cut or a stab. Wounding is punishable by up to five years imprisonment and may be dealt with in the Magistrates Court or in the higher courts.


Affray occurs when a person takes part in violent conduct that is likely to cause a person to fear for their safety. This offence is a summary offence, carrying a maximum of two years imprisonment.

Assault Police

Unlike other jurisdictions, the ACT does not have a separate criminal offence of assault police. In the ACT, a person who assaults a police officer will be charged with common assault or assault occasioning bodily harm.


In the ACT, there are two categories of criminal offences: summary offences and indictable offences. A summary offence is a minor offence that can be finalised in the lower courts (Magistrates Court for adults, Children’s Court for juveniles). An indictable offence may be dealt with on indictment (in the District Court or Supreme Court) or in the lower courts. There are also some offences which are strictly indictable and can only be dealt with on indictment.

Assault in Canberra can be a summary offence or an indictable offence. Simple assault and affray are summary offences, while wounding and assault occasioning bodily harm are indictable offences that can be heard summarily with the consent of both parties. When an indictable offence is dealt with summarily, the maximum penalty that can be imposed is much less than when it is dealt with on indictment. A magistrate can impose no more than two years imprisonment for a single offence.

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Defences to assault in Canberra

There are a number of legal defences that a person can rely on when charged with an assault in Canberra. Some of these are summarised below.


A person is not guilty of an offence if they assault a person in self-defence or in defence of another person. To successfully rely on self-defence, an accused person must show that their actions were necessary in the circumstances and that their response was proportionate to the threat faced.


A person is not guilty of an assault if the alleged victim consented to the act. A person can consent to being assaulted in a number of contexts. Engaging in a contact sport involves consent to be touched in ways that would otherwise amount to assault. A person is not guilty of an assault arising from contact sport provided their actions were within the rules of the sport. Similarly, where two or more persons engage in a ‘fair fight’, they are doing so consensually and no assault is committed.


A person is not guilty of assault in Canberra is the act was accidental. To be found guilty of assault, a person must have committed the act either intentionally or recklessly.

If you require legal advice or representation in relation to assault in Canberra or in any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.   

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Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.

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