Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ACT)
Updated on Dec 15, 2022 • 4 min read • 401 views • Copy Link
Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ACT)
The ACT Crimes Act 1900 contains a range of assault offences including common assault, assault with intent to commit another offence, assault of frontline community service provider and assault accessioning actual bodily harm. This page deals with assault occasioning actual bodily harm in the Australian Capital Territory.
Section 24 of the Crimes Act 1900 contains the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
What is assault occasioning actual bodily harm?
An assault occasioning actual bodily harm (AOBH) is an assault where the victim sustains actual bodily harm. Actual bodily harm is an injury that interferes with the victim’s health or comfort such as a bruise or a scratch. The injury does not need to be permanent but must be more than merely ‘transient or trifling.’
In the ACT, an assault occasioning actual bodily harm is aggravated if it is committed against a pregnant woman or in the context of family violence. When AOBH is committed on a pregnancy woman, the actual bodily harm may be harm to the pregnancy.
AOBH is a more serious charge than common assault, which does not require the victim to have suffered injury. It is less serious than inflicting grievous bodily harm, which involves really serious injuries such as permanent disfigurement, broken bones and serious burns.
Penalty for assault occasioning actual bodily harm
A person who is found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm is liable to imprisonment for up to five years. If the offence is aggravated the maximum penalty increases to imprisonment for seven years.
Offences of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm are usually finalised in the summary jurisdiction (Magistrates Court or Children’s Court). When these matters are dealt with in the summary jurisdiction, the maximum penalty that can be imposed is imprisonment for two years.
As AOBH is an indictable offence, the accused has the right to trial by a jury and can elect for the matter to be committed to the Supreme Court. When the matter is dealt with in the Supreme Court, longer maximum penalties apply. If the accused pleads not guilty, the matter will be decided by a jury.
Defences to assault occasioning actual bodily harm
There are a number of legal defences that may be available to a person charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
A person is not guilty of an offence if they acted in self-defence or in defence of another person. The defence of self-defence will succeed only if the accused reasonably believed that their actions were necessary in self-defence and their actions were proportionate to the extent of the threat they believed themselves to be facing.
A person is not guilty of an offence if they acted under duress. Duress exists when a person is subjected to serious threats (of death or serious harm) if they do not comply with another person’s demands.
A person is not guilty of an offence if they were mentally impaired when they carried out the act and could not understand the nature of the act or could not understand that they ought not to do the act.
A mental impairment can be a mental illness (temporary or permanent) or an intellectual disability.
A person under the age of 10 cannot be found guilty of an offence. A person under the age of 14 can only be found guilty of an offence if the prosecution can prove that they understood that their actions were wrong and amounted to a criminal offence (as opposed to just being naughty).
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