Assault charges in Western Australia are taken very seriously, no matter how minor the incident may be. Depending on the particular type of offence, different penalties will apply and the criminal trial process will differ. Assault charges are dealt with under Part 5 of the Criminal Code 1913 (WA). The nature and severity of the assault will determine the charge that is laid against an offender.
Definition of Assault
In Western Australia, an assault may occur by, for example, striking, touching, moving, or applying force of any kind to another person, either directly or indirectly, without the person’s consent, or with their consent if it is obtained by fraud. It is not necessary for physical injury to have been caused to amount to an assault, as an assault charge may arise from an attempt or a threat where the offender has, or appears to have, the ability to carry out the assault. In addition, assault may arise if an offender uses any light, heat, electricity, odour, gas or any substance that causes injury or personal discomfort to another person.
An assault-based offence is considered aggravated where the person who caused the assault is in a domestic relationship with the victim, a child was present, the conduct breaches the terms of a restraining order, the victim is 60 years or older, or the offence is racially motivated.
Common assault charges in Western Australia arise in circumstances where a person has sustained minor injuries or where a person has been threatened. The most common form of this offence arises when a person has been hit, pushed or shoved. Common assault offences are dealt with by the Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty for this offence is generally 18 months imprisonment and a fine of $18,000. However, where the offence occurs in circumstances of aggravation, the maximum penalty rises to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of $36,000.
Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm
An assault occasioning bodily harm is an offence where the person has suffered any kind of bodily injury which interferes with their health or comfort. Such injuries may include minor abrasions and bruises, or injuries that are still relatively minor but require medical attention. This offence is dealt with in either the Magistrates’ Court or the District Court. For cases heard in the District Court, the offence carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment; however, this may increase to 7 years imprisonment if the offence occurs in circumstances of aggravation. For cases heard in the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment and a fine of $24,000, or, if the offence occurred in circumstances of aggravation, 3 years imprisonment and a fine of $36,000.
Grievous Bodily Harm
The Criminal Code in Western Australia defines grievous bodily harm to include any bodily injury of a serious nature that is likely to endanger life or cause permanent injury or death. This charge may arise in circumstances where a person has suffered serious disfigurement, loss of a limb or broken bones. It is considered a very serious offence, carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, and is dealt with by the District Court. However, the penalty will be raised to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment if the grievous bodily harm is committed whilst stealing a car, where the victim is working in a particular job role, such as an ambulance officer, health care worker, or court officer, or where the offence occurs in circumstances of aggravation.
The Criminal Code in Western Australia makes it an offence to assault a public officer or police officer in their line of duty. The maximum penalty for serious assault in Western Australia is 7 years; however, this penalty may be raised to 10 years imprisonment if the offender is armed with a weapon or is in the company of one or more persons. In addition, where the assault is committed against a police officer, a prison officer, a security officer, or a young offenders’ custodial officer, and the officer suffers bodily injury, the court must impose a sentence of at least 6 months imprisonment, or 9 months imprisonment where the offender was armed or was in the company of one or more persons.
In Western Australia, it is an offence to indecently assault another person. An indecent assault does not necessarily need to be sexually motivated, but must be inherently indecent. This type of offence may be dealt with by either the Magistrates’ Court or the District Court. If the case is heard by the District Court, the maximum penalty for this type of offence is 5 years imprisonment. However, this sentence may be raised to 7 years imprisonment if the offender is armed with a weapon, is in the company of one or more persons, causes any person harm, threatens to kill the victim, or does anything which is likely to degrade or humiliate the victim. If the case is heard in the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment and a fine of $24,000.
Possible defences to assault charges in Western Australia
When faced with assault charges in Western Australia, depending upon the circumstances, a defence such as provocation or self-defence may be available. An offender may plead provocation in circumstances where they were provoked into committing the assault and the provocation resulted in a loss of self-control, provided that the assault is not disproportionate to the provocation and is not likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm.
An offender may rely on self-defence if it is proven that the offender believed the assault was reasonably necessary to defend themselves or another person, there were reasonable grounds for their belief, and the offender’s act can be considered reasonable in the circumstances.
It is important to note that these are only brief overviews of the defences and that they will not be available for all types of assault charges in Western Australia or in all cases. If you or someone you know is facing any kind of assault charge, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.