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Criminal Law: Assault

Assault is a crime

that has seen the spotlight in the media in recent years, mostly due to ‘king hit’ or ‘coward punch’ cases. While these incidents are usually a clear case of assault, it can be surprising what other actions can be considered assault. You may have been a victim or perpetrator of assault without knowing it.

What is a criminal assault?

If you intentionally or recklessly inflict or threaten to inflict physical force on another person, that is assault. There are a range of criminal assault charges that can be prosecuted, but typically they are common assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

When a person commits an assault, but cause no injury or bodily harm, that is considered common assault. If you were to hit, spit, throw something at somebody or threaten to harm them, these are examples of common assault (unless they were injured).

If you were to assault a person and the attack resulted in injury or harm, then that is an assault occasioning actual bodily harm. It doesn’t matter if the injury is permanent or one that the other person recovers from.

What if I have committed assault?

Assault is a criminal offence and as such if you are charged you will have a criminal record. The severity of the penalty will be decided based on the type and severity of the offence.

Common assault carries a maximum prison sentence of two years, but there are other possible penalties. The best case scenario would be to receive a Section 10. This is a dismissal of the charges. Good legal representation would be required to achieve this. The dismissal means there is no conviction, no criminal record and no penalties.

Failing a Section 10 dismissal, a person charged with assault could receive the following penalties:

  • A fine, determined by the magistrate.
  • A community service order (CSO). This involves unpaid work or course attendance. Defendants must be assessed by a probation officer to be eligible for CSO.
  • A good behaviour bond. For a period determined by the magistrate, up to five years, the defendant must display what the court considers to be good behaviour. Violation of this can result in other harsher penalties.
  • A suspended sentence. The defendant will receive a prison sentence. This sentence is suspended if the defendant can live up to the conditions of a good behaviour bond. If they meet the bond conditions for the period specified the sentence is not carried out.
  • An intensive correction order.
    • The court can order the defendant to comply with a number of conditions, which include:
      • Attending Counseling
      • Treatment
      • Not Consuming Alcohol
      • Complying with a curfew
      • Performing Community Service
    • This sentencing option has replaced periodic detention.
  • A prison sentence. Depending on the severity of the charges, a common assault defendant can face up to two years in a correctional facility.

An assault occasioning actual bodily harm carries similar penalties, however, the maximum possible prison sentence increases seven years.

What if I have been a victim?

In order to convict a person of assault, police must supply sufficient evidence. If you have been a victim of assault and want to press charges, then you will be a part of the investigation. When pressing charges, you, the plaintiff, are within your rights to have legal counsel. Police will need to provide evidence that the defendant did assault you, either intentionally or recklessly. Additionally, they need to prove there was no lawful excuse, such as self-defense, and that the plaintiff wasn’t consenting (for example playing a contact sport with the defendant).

What about self-defence?

If you have inflicted force on another person, but have done so to protect yourself from harm or protect another person from being harmed, you may be deemed to be acting in self-defence. If a defendant claims self-defence, evidence must be provided to prove that the defendant didn’t believe they were defending themselves or another or that they used unreasonable force in their defence.

Need help?

If things have gotten out of control and you’ve been the victim of assault or are facing criminal assault charges, the solicitors at CM Lawyers will provide the best representation to achieve a favourable outcome. Get in touch with our team here.