Assault Charges in Australia

Assault charges in AustraliaWhat is Assault? Assault is classed as an offence against theperson, and therefore no matter how minor the incident may have seemed, the chargesare not to be taken lightly.

There are different penalties for the differentassault offences depending on the seriousness of the incident; however, all assault chargeshave a jail term as a penalty option.

Whether the magistrate or judge orders a term of imprisonmentor not will depend on the type of offence committed, the circumstances surrounding theoffence, and the offender’s past criminal history.

An assault may occur by, for example, striking, touching, moving or applying force withouta person’s consent, or with the person’s consent if that consent is obtained by fraud.

It is not necessary for a physical injury to have been sustained for an assault to haveoccurred, as an assault charge may arise from an attempt or a threat where the offenderhas, or appears to have, the ability to carry out the assault.

Assault may also arise ifan offender uses light, heat, electricity, odours, gas or any substance that causes injuryor personal discomfort to another person.

Types of AssaultThere are five main types of assault charges in Australia.

These are:• common assault • assault occasioning bodily harm• unlawful wounding • grievous bodily harm, and• sexual assault.

The nature of the offence, the circumstancesin which it occurred and the type of injury sustained will determine the charge that islaid.

In some circumstances, the identity of the victim will also determine the appropriatecharge.

Common AssaultCommon assault is the most frequent assault charge in Australia, and can result from asimple scuffle or argument.

You can be charged with common assault if during an argumentyou threatened another person, or they received minor injuries from a push, shove, hit, orother contact.

Spitting on another person or throwing an object at a person are alsoclassed as common assault.

The penalty for a common assault will differaccording to factors such as the state or territory in which it occurs, its severity,the extent of any harm, and the past criminal history of the offender.

Assault Occasioning Bodily HarmAn assault occasioning bodily harm charge arises when the person who is attacked suffersan injury, such as bruising or swelling.

Generally, the injury will be one which is severe enoughto require medical treatment or time off work.

If the offence involved the use of a weapon,or the threat of a weapon, then the charge can be upgraded to aggravated assault occasioningbodily harm.

Unlawful WoundingIf the assault caused the breaking or penetration of the skin which normally results in bleedingthen you may be charged with unlawful wounding.

If the outer skin is broken, but the injuryhasn’t penetrated through the outer layer, then this cannot be classed as unlawful wounding.

Normally medical evidence would be provided of the injury sustained to justify the charge.

Grievous Bodily HarmGrievous bodily harm is a very serious form of assault which arises when the person attackedloses a distinct part of an organ, or suffers serious disfigurement or an injury that ifleft untreated would endanger the person’s life or cause permanent injury.

This can includebroken teeth or bones through to more life endangering injuries such as a head injuryor severe internal bleeding.

Serious AssaultA serious assault charge occurs when a public officer or police office is assaulted in theline of duty.

A public officer includes a transit officer, health service employee,correctional officer, or a child protection officer.

The charge may arise in circumstances including where a person bites or spits on the officer,or pretends to be armed with a dangerous weapon.

The charge can also result from assaultinga person who relies on a guide, hearing or assistant dog, is in a wheelchair, or is over60 years of age.

Sexual AssaultA sexual assault occurs when someone is touched inappropriately, forces someone to commitan act of gross indecency, or forces someone to witness an act of gross indecency.

Grossindecency is an act which doesn’t result in penetration, such as watching someone masturbate,or forcing someone to touch their genitals.

Rape is the most serious form of sexual assaultin which intercourse occurs without consent.

Aggravated sexual assault occurs when a weaponis used, or threatened to be used, during the offence.

Penalties for Assault OffencesThe penalties for the various types of offences vary depending on the nature of the offenceand the offender’s criminal history.

However, all carry a possible term of imprisonmentwith some being more than 10 years.

The length of imprisonment varies between the differentstates and territories in Australia.

Other sentencing options are available forsome assault offences such as fines, good behaviour bonds, probation, community correctionorders, or a suspended sentence.

LegislationThe Legislation that governs assault offences differs in each state.

In Queensland, thedefinitions and penalties for assault charges are located in chapters 30 and 32 of the CriminalCode 1899.

Divisions 6 and 9 of the Crimes Act 1900 govern offences against a personin New South Wales.

In Victoria, section 31 of the Crimes Act1958 outlines the types of assault offences with which a person can be charged.

Assaultoffences in Western Australia are defined in Part V of the Criminal Code 1913, and inSouth Australia, they are found in Part 3 Division 7 the Criminal Law ConsolidationAct 1935.

The Criminal Code 1924 in Tasmania sets outassault offences in Parts IV and V, and the Criminal Code of the Northern Territory setsthem out in Part VI, Division 5.

In the ACT, assault offences are found in the Crimes Act1900, Parts 2 and 3.

What to do nextIf you or someone you know is facing any kind of assault charge, it is important to obtainlegal advice as soon as possible.

Go To Court Lawyers operate a Legal Hotlineon 1300 636 846 where you can talk directly to a lawyer from 7am to midnight, 7 days aweek.

Your call will be treated with the strictest confidentiality and without judgement.

The lawyer will assess your matter and recommend a course of action.

Should you need a Court lawyer, even at very short notice, the Legal Hotline staff willbe able to arrange one for you.

You can also request a call back via the website gotocourt.


Auand a lawyer will call you back to assess your matter.

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