In New South Wales the various offences of assault are set out in the Crimes Act 1900. Assaults are divided into two general categories: common assault and aggravated assaults. In New South Wales, an assault is not only the crime of hurting someone without a lawful purpose but it can also be any act, but not a failure to act, which causes another person to fear immediate and unlawful violence.
For a person to be found guilty of an assault the prosecution needs to prove two things: firstly, that the defendant used or threatened to use physical force against another person that was or would be unlawful, and secondly, that the physical force was either intentional (rather than accidental) or reckless. An injury is caused recklessly if the person realised that harm may possibly be caused by their actions, but went ahead anyway.
Common assaults are charged under s 61 of the Crimes Act 1900 and are usually dealt with by a Local Court; however the prosecution can elect to have them dealt with in the District Court.
An assault is a Common Assault when it results in no injury, or in injuries that are not serious and require very little medical treatment. Common assault can also include threats of violence, if the person making the threat has the ability to carry them out. A general threat that something might happen in the future is not enough to be an assault. If, however, the threats create an immediate fear that continues, then that may constitute an assault. In New South Wales, common assault carries a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment or fines of up to $2,200.00.
Aggravated assault is a term used to cover a range of serious assault offences. Sections 32 to 54 of the Crimes Act 1900 deal with most of the aggravated assault offences. These assaults are categorised by the degree of injury that is caused.
Actual bodily harm
Assault occasioning actual bodily harm is dealt with in s 59 of the Crimes Act 1900. What constitutes “actual bodily harm” has been decided by the courts in case law. It includes any hurt or injury that interferes with the health or comfort of the person assaulted. It can also include a recognisable psychiatric illness, such as a severe depressive illness or anxiety disorder that is caused by the assault. As with common assault, the prosecution can elect to have it dealt with in the District Court. It carries a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison.
Grievous bodily harm
In New South Wales, the offences relating to grievous bodily harm and wounding and the penalties that they carry are set out in the Crimes Act 1900 between sections 33 and 54. The word grievous means really serious, but the injury does not need to be permanent, or long lasting or life threatening.
It also includes the termination of a woman’s unborn child, whether or not she suffers any other injury, any permanent or serious disfiguring of a person, and causing any person to contract any grievous bodily disease.
Wounding is dealt with in section 33 or section 35 of the Crimes Act 1900. Wounding means that more than just the top layer of skin is broken by the act.
Penalties for Wounding and Grievous Bodily Harm
Wounding and Grievous Bodily Harm offences will almost always result in jail sentences on conviction. The maximum penalties range between 10 years and 25 years imprisonment. They are all strictly indictable offences and cannot be heard in a Local Court, but must be committed to a District or Supreme Court. Most also carry Standard Non-Parole periods, which are the minimum times that are to be spent in custody without parole.
Lawful Excuse Defence
The Lawful Excuse Defence is available in circumstances where a person comes into physical contact with another (sometimes causing pain), and there is agreement to the physical contact, such as a doctor or dentist treating a patient or in the playing of a sport. However, in sport, if the player were to make contact outside of the rules of the sport – such as an illegal tackle- and that results in the other player being injured, then it might constitute an assault.
Actions that might constitute an assault at law will not constitute an assault if there is consent to them, such as in the playing of sports (the “consent defence”). However, the consent defence does not apply in unlawful situations or situations which the degree of harm is very severe.
Lawful Chastisement Defence
In New South Wales, parents have always been entitled to use reasonable and moderate force to physically discipline their children. In the year 2000, s 61AA was put into the Crimes Act 1900 and sets out what is lawful when physically punishing a child. The level of force used must be reasonable, must not be to the head or neck and must only last for a short time. A useful article which discusses what is acceptable and why is published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies here
Self-defence is outlined in section 418 of the Crimes Act 1900. It is a defence to the charge if the person believes that their actions were necessary to defend either themselves or another person, or to prevent or stop the unlawful deprivation of their liberty or that of another, or to protect property from being taken, destroyed or damaged unlawfully, or to prevent or stop a criminal trespass. The action they take must be a reasonable response in the circumstances as they understand them. If self-defence is raised as a defence to a charge of assault, then it is up to the prosecution to prove that the person was not acting in self-defence by proving that they did not genuinely believe that it was necessary to do what they did, or that what they did was not reasonable in response to the danger as they understood it.
The defence of Intoxication does not apply for most types of assault offences. It only applies for offences which are set out in section 428B of the Crimes Act 1900, for example maliciously inflict grievous bodily harm with intent. The court can take into account how intoxicated the person who committed the offence was when deciding whether the police have proved they formed the intention to bring about a specific result. Intoxication is not a defence if the person became intoxicated to help them commit the offence.
Our solicitor Ms Deike Kemper represented a 46-year-old female at the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court in April 2018 in relation to a charge of unlawful assault.
The case involved a disagreement between our client and the daughter of an acquaintance. The allegation was that our client had violently assaulted the complainant, through her car window, causing bruising and cuts.
Given the client’s criminal history, she was at risk of being sentenced to imprisonment.
Despite negotiations with prosecution and requests for further witness statements to be obtained, the charge was not withdrawn and the matter proceeded to first mention. On the day of court, Ms Kemper had further discussions with prosecution and the charge was withdrawn.
This result was achieved through determination and persistence, whilst maintaining an appropriate professional relationship with prosecution. The case illustrates the importance of quality representation and the value of a solicitor like Dieke Kemper who will ensure the prosecution case against you is fully tested and work hard to get you the best possible outcome.
Our solicitor Kristen Moore represented a 40-year-old male in the Victorian Magistrate Court seeking that her client be granted bail.
This case involved a client who as committed an indictable offence while on bail and as such there was no presumption of bail in his favour.
The case involved allegations of assault and breaches of an intervention order.
Our representation resulted in the Court granting bail to our client on strict conditions pending the hearing of his charges.
That result was achieved by presenting the court with circumstances, including the client’s role as financial provider for his family, his previous misunderstanding of the conditions of his bail and his otherwise lack of criminal history.
This case illustrates the importance of quality representation and the value of a solicitor like Kristen Moore who was able to understand that circumstances of her client and use apply these to the technical legal principles surrounding bail applications in a manner that illustrated to the court that granting bail to her client would not pose a risk to the greater society.
Our solicitor Sylvie Maranis represented a 26-year-old man at the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court in relation to nine charges arising out of an altercation at a McDonalds restaurant.
The case involved a serious altercation between two parties after a late night of drinking. Our client and several others attacked and assaulted two men and continued to assault them until Police were called. The other party suffered serious injuries and several witnesses were affected by the result of a six-person affray. Our client was charged with multiple offences which carried penalties between one and ten years' imprisonment, in addition to large fines.
Ms Maranis' representation resulted in the Prosecution dropping seven charges. Our client entered a plea of guilty for the remaining charges and the Court imposed a $2000 fine without conviction on a 3 month stay.
That result was achieved only after extensive preparation by Sylvie Maranis and the tendering of well-received character references from our client’s construction company and his local football club, in which he was an active member. Sylvie also engaged in a Summary Case Conference to convince the Prosecution to proceed on only two of the nine initial charges.
This case illustrates the importance of quality representation and the value of a solicitor like Sylvie Maranis who provides quality advice and acts as an effective communicator when negotiating with the Prosecution.
GTC's solicitor Shirley Casey represented an adult male accused of Aggravated Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm, against his wife. This was a criminal charge that arose from a domestic violence matter.
Despite Shirley's best attempts to negotiate with the prosecution, the matter went to trial. After extensive legal argument, and the presentation of detailed evidence to the Court, the Defendant was acquitted of the offence.
This result was achieved due to the solicitor's thorough preparation of all aspects of the case and being completely ready to face the Court on the trial day. Shirley paid careful attention to the client’s personal circumstances and collected evidence in support of the case. The client's success in this matter demonstrates the significant impact that a well-prepared and professional solicitor can have on the outcome of a serious offence matter.
Our solicitor Jona Villanueva represented a 34-year-old at the Werribee Magistrates Court on 18 October 2017 in relation to the following charges:
- Intentionally causing injury;
- Recklessly causing injury;
- Unlawful assault with a weapon; and
- Unlawful assault.
The case involved an offence that was committed from an altercation at a licensed venue in Werribee. The accused was charged with the offences as the victim suffered minor injuries to his skull and the Police believed there was a weapon involved.
Our representation in Court resulted in the withdrawal of the first three charges and the accused being sentenced to an Undertaking of Good Behaviour on the charge of unlawful assault.
This was achieved by preparing for the case thoroughly and the successful summary case conference with Prosecution on the day of Court. It was argued that the victim’s injuries did not correlate to a weapon being used. Furthermore, the minor injury sustained by the victim was not from a reckless behaviour by the accused.
This case illustrates the importance of quality representation and the value of a solicitor like Jona Villanueva who will review your Brief of Evidence and examine the background to the offence to achieve the best possible outcome.
Watch the video below to know more about the Assault Charges in Australia: