Crimes of assault are among the most serious offences that can be committed against the person. Similar to the other States and Territories, Tasmania has a number of assault offences which reflect the varying degrees of seriousness that crimes of assault may take. They are separated into ‘summary offences’ (which are considered to be less serious) and assaults that are punishable on indictment (also known as ‘crimes’). The summary offences are found in the Police Offences Act 1935, whilst crimes of assault are found in the Tasmanian Criminal Code (Schedule 1 to the Criminal Code Act 1924)). These offences include:
- common assault
- aggravated assault
- assaulting a police officer or other public officer
- indecent and sexual assaults, and
- wounding or causing bodily harm.
Common assault is committed in Tasmania if you, without the consent of another person, intentionally apply force to that person, attempt or threaten by any gesture to apply force on that person (provided that person reasonably believes you are capable of doing so), or deprive that person of their liberty. Such actions can be both direct and indirect. For example, if you have assaulted a person who is holding a child and that child is injured because they are dropped, that child is also a victim of the assault. However, reasonably necessary acts in the common intercourse of life (eg patting a person’s shoulder to get their attention) cannot be assault. Unlike other jurisdictions, words alone cannot constitute an assault; instead, a threatening gesture is required. Less serious offences of common assault (ie the ‘summary offences’) are dealt with summarily by a Magistrates Court, with a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units (ie $2,800) or 12 months imprisonment. More serious crimes of common assault are dealt with by the Supreme Court and have a maximum penalty of 21 years imprisonment (though this in practice is not imposed), a fine or both.
Aggravated assault as a summary offence
Aggravated assault occurs if you commit the summary offence of common assault, but the assault is of an ‘aggravated nature’. Unlike in other jurisdictions, what is ‘aggravating’ is not defined. Cases decided in Tasmania confuse this further by saying that an assault will be of an ‘aggravating nature’ if there is something that increases the gravity of the offence. For example, assault against a youth will not necessarily reach this bar, depending on the age difference between the perpetrator and the victim. Therefore, if you commit an assault, whether it is of an ‘aggravated nature’ will depend on the circumstances of the assault. The maximum penalty for this offence is 50 penalty units (ie $7,000) or 2 years imprisonment.
Aggravated assault punishable on indictment
Aggravated assault is also a crime punishable on indictment (ie you may have a right to trial by jury). However, unlike aggravated assault as a summary offence, we are told what the circumstances which cause the offence to be aggravated are. They include (but are not limited) the intention to commit a crime, resisting or preventing arrest and assaulting a person lawfully seizing your property. The maximum penalty for aggravated assault is 21 years imprisonment. There is also a separate offence for assaulting a woman you know to be pregnant, which also carries a maximum penalty of 21 years imprisonment.
Assaulting police or public officers
Tasmania has a summary offence and an offence punishable on indictment (ie you may have a right to trial by jury) for assaulting a police officer in the course of their duty. The summary offence, which has a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units ($14,000) or 3 years imprisonment, extends to threatening or intimidating the police officer. The offence punishable on indictment, which has a maximum penalty of 21 years imprisonment, only extends to assaulting the police officer. It is also a summary offence to assault another public officer in the course of their duty, which has a slightly lower maximum penalty of 50 penalty units (ie $7,000) or 2 years imprisonment.
Wounding or causing bodily harm
It is an offence to wound or cause grievous bodily harm to another person, which includes life endangering and serious bodily injuries. The method of how this is achieved does not matter. The maximum penalty is 21 years imprisonment.
Indecent and sexual assault
Like all States and Territories, Tasmania has a number of offences for dealing with indecent assault and sexual assault. For example, assaulting someone with indecent intent is a summary offence, with a possible maximum penalty of 50 penalty units (ie $7,000) or 2 years imprisonment. Indecent assault is also a crime punishable by 21 years imprisonment. Aggravated sexual assault of another person is also a serious crime punishable by up to 21 years imprisonment.
Watch the video below to know more about the Assault Charges in Australia: