Assault In Perth
Assault in Perth and in the rest of Western Australia is governed by the WA Criminal Code 1913 (the Code). WA assault offences range from common assault to grievous bodily harm. Assaults of a sexual nature are generally charged as indecent assault. Assault in Perth can attract a range of penalties depending on the circumstances of the offence and of the offender and on which court the matter is finalised in. Penalties include fines, community-based dispositions and terms of imprisonment.
What Is An Assault?
Under section 222 of the Code, an assault is any instance of a person touching or applying force to another person without consent or attempting or threatening to do so.
An assault charge may arise from a slap, push, punch, spit or through the indirect application of force, for example, by throwing something at a person. A person can be guilty of assault whether or not injury was caused and even without physical contact.
Aggravated assault in Perth
An assault is an aggravated assault when it is committed under circumstances of aggravation. Circumstances of aggravation exist when:
- the offender is in a family relationship with the victim;
- a child was present when the offence occurred;
- the conduct breaches a restraining order;
- the victim is aged 60 years or more; and/or
- the offence is racially motivated.
The offence of common assault is set out in Section 313 of the Code and is dealt with in the Magistrates Court (where the offender is an adult) or in the Children’s Court (where the offender is a juvenile). The maximum penalty for a common assault is imprisonment for 18 months and a fine of $18,000.
Where a common assault occurs in circumstances of aggravation, the maximum penalty is three years imprisonment and a fine of $36,000.
Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm
Under section 317 of the Code, it is an offence to commit an assault that causes bodily harm.
Bodily harm is any kind of physical injury that interferes with a person’s health or comfort. This includes minor cuts and bruises, or injuries that are relatively minor but require medical intervention, such as stitches or pain killers.
This offence is in indictable offence that can be heard summarily. It is dealt with in either the Magistrates Court (or Children’s Court) as a summary offence or in the District Court on indictment.
When a matter is heard in the District Court, the offence carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment; however, this may increase to seven years if the offence is aggravated.
For cases heard summarily (in the Magistrates Court) the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment and a fine of $24,000. If the offence occurred under circumstances of aggravation, the maximum penalty that a magistrate can impose is three years imprisonment and a fine of $36,000.
Assault With Intent
Assault with intent to commit a crime is an offence under section 317A of the Code. This offence occurs when a person commits assault:
- with the intent to commit a crime or facilitate its commission;
- with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm on a person; or
- with intent to resist or prevent a person’s lawful arrest or detention.
When a matter is dealt with in the District Court, the offence carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment or seven years if the offence occurs in circumstances of aggravation.
For cases heard summarily the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment and a fine of $24,000. If the offence occurred under circumstances of aggravation, the maximum penalty that the Magistrates Court can impose is three years and a fine of $36,000.
Assault Offence Involving Grievous Bodily Harm
Under section 297 of the Code, it is an offence to inflict grievous bodily harm on another person.
Grievous bodily harm is any bodily injury of a serious nature that is likely to endanger life or cause permanent injury or death. This charge may be laid when a victim has sustained serious disfigurement, broken bones or the loss of a limb.
Inflciting grievous bodily harm (GBH) is a very serious offence and is strictly indictable, meaning it must be dealt with in the high courts (District or Supreme Court).
Grievous bodily harm carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. The maximum penalty is increased to 14 years imprisonment if it is inflicted during the theft of a car, while the victim was working in particular roles (such as an ambulance officer) or where the offence occurred under circumstances of aggravation.
When grievous bodily harm is inflicted under particular circumstances in WA, mandatory sentencing provisions apply. This means that the court’s sentencing discretion is fettered and the court must impose a particular minimum penalty.
Serious Assault in Perth
Under section 318 of the Criminal Code, it is a serious assault offence to assault a public officer or police officer in their line of duty.
Under section 323 of the Code it is an offence to indecently assault another person. An assault may be an indecent assault because of the part of the body that is touched or because of the part of the body the offender used.
When an indecent assault matter is heard in the District Court, the offence carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.
For cases heard summarily the maximum penalty that may be imposed is two years imprisonment and a fine of $24,000.
Possible Defences To Assault Offences
A person charged with an assault in Perth or elsewhere in WA may rely on a number of defences, some of which are outlined below. For a court to find an accused guilty of an assault the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they do not have a valid defence.
Under section 246 of the WA Code, provocation can be used as a defence to assault. The defence of provocation can be used where an accused was provoked by the victim into committing assault and the provocation resulted in the accused losing their self-control. For this defence to succeed, the assault must not have been disproportionate to the provocation and must not have been so serious as to have been likely to cause death or GBH.
An offender may rely on the defence of self-defence to contest an assault charge if they believe that their actions were necessary in their defence or in the defence of another person. For this defence to succeed, the accused must have believed the assault was reasonably necessary in the circumstances as they perceived them at the time of the alleged offence.
An assault charge can also be contested on the basis that the offender was acting under duress. Duress exists when a person makes a serious threat to the accused such that they are in fear of death or serious injury of they do not comply with the demands being made. A person may be found not guilty of an assault if they can show that they would not have committed the act but for the threat that was being made to them at the time of the alleged offence.