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Assault in the Australian Capital Territory

The Australian Capital Territory takes assault charges very seriously and imposes varying degrees of penalties according to the nature of the charge and the circumstances of the offence. Assault charges are dealt with under Part 2 of the Crimes Act 1900 and include offences such as common assault, grievous bodily harm and stalking.

In the Australian Capital Territory, a person can be ASSAULTED through the intentional or reckless actions of another that cause fear of imminent violence.

Definition of Assault

In the ACT, a person can be assaulted through the intentional or reckless actions of another that cause fear imminent violence. Therefore, fear is an element required to prove assault. Assault charges can be made out in two ways, by threatening a person and causing them to fear imminent violence, or by using any force or violence against another person. As you can see, there does not need to be any physical injury for an assault to have occurred.

Common Assault

Section 26 of the Crimes Act makes it an offence to commit common assault in the ACT. A charge of common assault arises in circumstances where a person has either threatened to harm another person or where unlawful force has been used without the persons consent. The most common form of this offence arises when a person has been hit, pushed or shoved or has been threatened during an argument. Depending on the seriousness of the assault, the Magistrates Court may sentence the offender to up to 2 years imprisonment.

Threat to Kill

As stated above, a person may be charged with common assault by making a threat that causes another person to fear imminent violence. However, if a person makes a more serious threat, the ACT imposes harsher penalties. The Crimes Act makes it an offence to threaten to kill another person, causing them fear that the threat would be carried out. Threatening to kill a person may be punishable by a 10-year jail sentence.

Assault Causing Bodily Harm

An assault causing bodily harm is a more serious offence than common assault and arises in circumstances where the person has suffered actual physical injury.  These injuries may include bruises or scratches.  Penalties for causing bodily harm may result in imprisonment of up to 5 years. However, the penalty may be raised to 7 years imprisonment if the offender assaulted a pregnant woman, and with knowledge that the woman was pregnant, caused harm to the pregnancy.

Assault Causing Grievous Bodily Harm

The Criminal Code in the ACT defines grievous bodily harm as the infliction of any serious bodily injury through an unlawful or negligent act. At a minimum, an act of this nature generally involves causing disability, disfigurement, disease or injury to/loss of a pregnancy.  The infliction of negligent grievous bodily harm may attract a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment.  However, if the offender intentionally inflicted the grievous bodily harm, the charge will be dealt with under section 19 of the Crimes Act where the maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment. The penalty may be raised to a maximum of 25 years imprisonment in circumstances where aggravation is a factor.

Indecent Assault

In the ACT, it is unlawful to stalk another person and causing them fear of harm, or to cause actual harm. Stalking is defined under the Crimes Act to include following or approaching a person, loitering near a person, keeping a person under surveillance or interfering with the property of the person. If it can be proven that an offender has committed any of these acts on at least two occasions, a charge of stalking will be made out. This offence may be punishable by 2 years imprisonment. However, this penalty may be raised to 5 years if the offender was in the possession of a weapon.

Possible defences

It is important to note that certain defences may be available depending on the type of offence you are charged with. For example, a charge of stalking will not apply to the reasonable conduct of a person who is employed to engage in the type of conduct described above, provided it is not unlawful. Also, under certain circumstances, it may be lawful to make a threat to kill. This may arise in the event that a person who is being attacked may threaten to use deadly force in an attempt to deter the attack.

Watch the video below to know more about the Assault Charges in Australia:


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is one of our Legal Practice Directors and the National Practice Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master’s in Criminology. Michelle has had a varied career, working in commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. Michelle joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2011. She now supervises a team of over 80 solicitors across Australia.

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