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Assault Criminal Offences in New South Wales

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Australian National Character Check (ANCC) makes every effort to provide updated and accurate information to its customers. However due to the continuously changing nature of legislations for the Commonwealth and various States and Territories, it is inevitable that some information may not be up to date. The information on the website is general information only. The contents on the website do not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or professional advice. While we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, suitability, accuracy or availability with respect to the information.

Assaults can take various forms in New South Wales, and the court treats all related matters of assault seriously and delicately. The guidelines on the punishments and scope of assaults are set in the Crimes Act of 1900.

The court handles assault cases based on two main categories. The assaults can either be;

  • Common or
  • Aggravated

What is an assault case?

The NSW legislation on assault is very similar to the general Australian laws on the matter. A person is guilty of an assault offence if;

  • A person hurts someone without a lawful purpose; including act, force, intimidation,
  • Threatens or attempts violent/destructive actions towards another person,

Hurting another person can have various methods including;

  • Throwing blows, kicks, weapons
  • Use of dangerous weapons
  • Reckless behaviours; car handling
  • Use of electric, heat, gas, or other forms of energy in harmful levels of ways.

How does a court prove an Assault case?

For the court to pronounce a party guilty of an assault offence, the prosecution team must prove to the jury that;

  • The accused used physical force against the sufferer unlawful
  • The accused threatened or attempted the use of the physical force
  • There was intent to injure or attempt to injure the person
  • The accused carried on with a reckless act, even though they knew how dangerous it is (in cases of accidents)

If the court finds you guilty of an assault charge, it can carry grave penalties depending on the type of assault and aggravating circumstances.

The Court will order punishments based on factors like;

  • The severity of the offence; injury, incapacitation, medical treatments
  • The nature of the assault; common, sexual, et.
  • Aggravated consequences or factors
  • Police criminal records on such charges

What are the types of Assault offences and their punishments?

Assault cases are serious offences, but NSW courts distinguish among them depending on the nature of the offence, degree of injury/damage done.

  1. Common Assaults
  2. It constitutes the higher percentage of assault cases in NSW courts. These cases are broad in scope, but covers all “lesser” offences and minor brawls around NSW.

    A person that hits another in a club or a hotel room, can be charged by the "sufferer" for assault.

    However, while the prosecution team usually aims to "blow up" the charge, it is up to the defence team to convince the court otherwise.

    Generally, Common assault cases are those that result in little or no serious injuries. It can also include

    • verbal threats,
    • violent acts,
    • battery
    • reckless behaviours.

    The NSW court puts maximum sentencing of 2 years imprisonment with/or fines of up to $2200

  3. Aggravated Assault
  4. These assaults are categorized as having more sinister motives and outcomes. Sections 32 to 54 of the Crimes act 1990 comprehensively covers the punishments and scope of the aggravated assault offences.

    There are also various degrees of harm/injury under the aggravated offences;

  5. Actual Bodily harm
  6. Under Section 59 of the Crimes Act, bodily harm includes all actions that cause any of the following harm to a person;

      ✔ Severe depressive illness

      ✔ Anxiety disorder from the assault

      ✔ Mild disfigurement or injury

      ✔ Swelling and bruises

      ✔ Caused the sufferer to alter their routine (work, schooling, and so on)

      ✔ Required medical attention

      ✔ Psychiatric injury or psychological harm

    Depending on how “serious” the prosecution takes such an offence, they can choose to apply at a District court. The NSW Crimes Act stipulates a maximum penalty term of 7 years imprisonment for offenders.

  7. Wounding and Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)
  8. Any injury that threatens life, causes permanent or temporary disfigurement are GBH assault offences. These offences get their name from the severity of harm to the sufferer. The prosecution must prove, usually with medical reports that the injury affected/continues to affect the sufferer.

    It also includes;

      ✔ The destruction of a foetus

      ✔ Permanent or serious disfiguring

      ✔ Grievous bodily disease

    Wounding occurs where the assaults affect more than the top layer of the skin. It also covers bleeding, damage to internal organs and serious bodily harm. Some injuries that constitute this offence are;

    • Bleeding from head
    • Serious bruising
    • Abrasions to shoulder and arm
    • Fractures to limbs
    • Other assault types that fall within this category are;
    • Skull, brain or damage to other internal organs
    • Cranial injuries and other severe
    • Gaping wounds to the face or throat requiring lots of stitches
    • Knife stabbings
    • Bleeding requiring stitches and a broken ankle

    Generally, there are slight overlaps between the Actual Bodily harm and the GBH; this is why you need an experienced lawyer to handle the case. However, the final verdicts depend on what the jury deduces from the case based on pieces of evidence.

Penalties for Wounding and Grievous Bodily harm

These types of assault cases usually end up in jail terms more often than not. The District or Supreme court can order sentencing between 10 and 25 years of jail term.

Is there any lawful defence to an assault charge?

While answering an assault charge in court, your legal team must explore various means to prove your innocence.

You should not enter a "guilty plea" unless your lawyer(s) have explored all avenues for defence and find none.

Here are some lawful defences to an assault charge

What is a lawful “Assault” case?

All assault charges are usually born out of illegal, non-consensual physical contact. However, a doctor/dentist/surgeon may injure a person while "working" (sometimes causing serious pains). Such professionals charged for assault can argue the "Lawful excuse defence” route, as it was a professional accident.

This same defence applies to sportsmen and sportswomen. A tackle during a game does not constitute an assault (so far as it is legal). However, illegal or dangerous tackles outside the guide of the game can constitute an assault charge.

Consent defence

If you can prove to the court that the act was consensual, the jury will accept this defence. However, this only applies to non-severe injuries, else the Magistrate will refuse such a plea.

Lawful discipline defence

The NSW legislation allows some form of moderate physical chastisement on their wards or children. However, this can easily become an assault case if the force/method exceeds the stipulated measures.


Under Section 42B of the Crimes Act; intoxication can only be a defence if it was not with the intent of harming the person. However, the court usually requires a Police report that shows that the person did not get intoxicated to perpetuate the assault.

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