Crimes of assault are one of the most serious, and common, offences committed against the person in Victoria. They are dealt with in the Crimes Act 1958 and the Summary Offences Act 1966. Different offences, and penalties, apply depending on the seriousness of the assault. The elements of the offence that must be proved by the Crown may also differ. These offences include:
- common assault (section 23 of the Summary Offences Act and the common law);
- aggravated assault (section 24 of the Summary Offences Act);
- more serious assaults (section 31 of the Crimes Act);
- intentionally or recklessly causing injury (sections 15A to 19A of the Crimes Act);
- threatening to kill a person or inflict serious injury on a person (sections 20 and 21 of the Crimes Act); and
- certain indecent assaults (sections 39 and 40 of the Crimes Act).
Common assault may be committed under statute or under common law. It is committed if you assault or beat another person. A crime of common assault under the Summary Offences Act carries a maximum penalty of 15 penalty units (i.e. $2,214.15) or three months imprisonment. It is generally considered to be the least serious crime of assault and is dealt with summarily by a Magistrates’ Court. More serious crimes of common assault are dealt with under the common law where a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment applies. Such cases are usually dealt with by the County Court.
In Victoria, there are two kinds of aggravated assault: assault against children under 14 and women (if the Magistrates Court takes the view that a conviction of common assault is not sufficient punishment), and assaults including multiple people, kicking or weapons. In the former case, the maximum penalty is 25 penalty units (i.e. $3,690.25), six months imprisonment and possibly a good behaviour bond. In the latter case, you may be sentenced to twelve months imprisonment if you committed assault with another person, or twenty four months imprisonment if you committed assault by kicking someone or with a weapon.
There are five separate offences in the Crimes Act dealing with the assault of, or threatening to assault, a person where you intended to inflict (or were reckless as to inflicting) injury on that person. For these purposes, “assault” means a direct or an indirect application of force on that person. These offences include assault intending to commit an indictable offence (e.g. murder), assault against a police officer and assault against an emergency worker. The elements that must be proved by the Crown differ between each of these offences. However, they all have the same maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment. These offences are heard in the County Court, unless you agree to have them dealt with summarily by a Magistrates’ Court.
There are multiple offences for intentionally/recklessly causing injury in the Crimes Act of Victoria. They range in their significance from offences which cause serious injury (i.e. life endangering or substantial/protracted injuries) where there is a circumstance of gross violence (e.g. the attack is premeditated or committed by a group) to intentionally or recklessly causing injury. The maximum penalty for these offences range from twenty years imprisonment to five years imprisonment. In each case, there is a minimum term of imprisonment and non-parole period that must be imposed unless the court concludes that there is a special reason why such a minimum term should not apply. These offences are heard in the County Court, but for the less serious offences you may agree to have them dealt with summarily by a Magistrates’ Court.
The offences mentioned above under the heading “Intentionally or recklessly causing injury” do not cover threats to commit such assaults. Instead, there are separate offences in the Crimes Act for threatening to kill a person or inflict serious injury on them. These offences are punishable by ten or five year’s imprisonment respectively, which means they will be heard by the County Court unless you elect to have them dealt with summarily by a Magistrate.
There are separate offences for indecently assaulting another person or assaulting/threatening assault on a person with the intention of committing rape. Both offences have a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment.
If you are accused of committing an offence of assault, a number of defences may be available to you. These include duress, self-defence and mental impairment. It is important you discuss your case with a criminal lawyer to determine whether any of these defences may be available to you.
Watch the video below to know more about the Assault Charges in Australia: