Overall, assault charges cover physical harm inflicted on someone, or an act that causes someone to believe they’re in danger of immediate violence. The onus is on the police to either prove that you threatened or used physical force against someone, and they must also prove that any force or harm inflicted was either intentional or reckless, not accidental.
There are two primary forms of assault in New South Wales: aggravated and common.
Common assaults are usually handled in the local court and only occasionally reach the district court. This kind of assault will either result in no significant injury or injuries that aren’t defined as serious. It can also include a threat that violence may happen in the future.
Aggravated assault usually refers to serious assault faces of various kinds. Assaults of this type are categorised by the degree of harm the victim suffers. Usually, the more severe the harm inflicted, the more severe the penalty.
Assault occasioning actual bodily harm refers to any assault in which the victim has suffered a physical or mental injury. The outcome must interfere directly with the way in which the victim goes about their life, and the prosecuting team must prove this. This type of assault carries a maximum jail term of 7 years.
The use of the word “grievous” relates to an assault injury that is highly serious. That injury doesn’t necessarily have permanent lasting effects, although in some cases it will do. Grievous bodily harm also covers the loss of a pregnancy due to an assault, as well as any serious disease arising from one. GBH almost always results in a jail term.
Wounding refers to an assault in which the skin is broken beyond the first layer. Those who are convicted of this offence are almost always jailed as a result. The prosecuting team need to demonstrate that the wound present was inflicted by the accused.
At Riviere Law, we can lodge a number of defences, either to prevent your conviction or reduce your penalty. They include:
Lawful excuses usually cover areas in which the defendant could lawfully engage in an act of “perceived violence” with the victim. For example, when a doctor is treating their patient, or a rugby player is tackling an opponent, a risk of harm is acknowledged on both sides. However, if such actions were illegal, such as in the event of non-consensual treatment or an illegal tackle, the assault charge may still stand.
If the victim has consented to an activity in which there is a risk of harm, the consent excuse may be used. However, if the injury is particularly severe, an assault conviction may still be applied. The conviction may also stand when the physical contact was disproportionate to what was consented to, or if it doesn’t appear reasonable that legal consent to such an assault would be given.
Parents can use reasonable force to chastise their child, under the Crimes Act, 1990. However, parents cannot go beyond what is deemed reasonable force by law, nor can they inflict injuries to the head or neck.
If you can demonstrate that the assault was necessary to protect yourself, you may be able to claim self-defence. This includes defending yourself against the deprivation of liberty or the loss of your property. When this defence is used, the onus is on the prosecution to prove that you weren’t acting in self-defence.
Intoxication isn’t a justifiable defence for most assaults. It cannot be used if you used intoxication to aid yourself in the assault. The court may assess how intoxicated you were, and whether the police correctly charged you, at the time of the arrest.