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Assault Criminal Offences in Western Australia (WA)

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There are various ways Assault offences can be committed in the Western Australia Territories, and each carries varying punishments according to how the prosecution can prove them in court.

Assault offences contravene Part 5 of the Criminal Code 1913 (WA), and most are considered "serious" criminal offences .

Anyone charged with an assault case must appear before the court with a lawyer, and defend their innocence. Lesser assault cases are handled at the Magistrate while gracer ones, especially those leading to serious bodily harm, are handled at a district or Supreme court.

What is an Assault Offence?

An assault can be physical or verbal under Section 222 of the Criminal Code WA. It doesn’t only mean when you pick up an object to attack a person. Threatening the act, attempting the act even without doing it, constitutes an assault case. The Criminal Code defines that an assault is committed if;

  1. A party attacks, hits, strikes, slaps, pushes, shoves, or applies other kinds of harmful force against another.
  2. Or

  3. Threaten or attempt to carry out any of the following actions, especially where the person is capable of doing such an act

It follows that the act is or was;

  • Direct or indirect
  • Non-consensual
  • Intentional or Accidental (reckless behaviour)
  • Causes bodily harm to the other person

Other forms of attack could be using an energy source in a harmful proportion against another person. Some examples are; heat, water, gas, odour, electricity, and so on.

What is an aggravated Assault?

These are assault cases that have special intimidating or repugnant conditions in them. These assault types usually carry heavier punishments in court than normal assaults depending on the type and aggravation. Some examples of Aggravated assaults are;

  • Domestic assault and abuse
  • Assault where a child was present
  • Conduct breaching a term of a restraining order or special orders b court
  • Assault against elder people (where the victim is 60 years and above)
  • Racially or ethnically motivated forms of assault
  • Assaults against pregnant women
  • Where the offender used, or threatened, with the use of a weapon; guns, heavy objects, knives, etc.

What are the punishments for an assault case?

The punishments the court imposes on offenders depend on the type of assault and the aggravating circumstances to it. It may also depend on other factors like;

  • Nature of assault
  • Prior convictions of such assault
  • Circumstances surrounding the assault; vengeance, necessity
  • Status of the sufferer; elderly, public or emergency officials
  • Degree of injury or damage caused

The popular categories of Assaults and their related punishments are;

  1. Common Assault
  2. It is the most popular assault case handled in WA Magistrate courts. Although they attract the least punishments, convictions of this offence appear on a person's Police records.

    The most common example is when a party does any of this to another;

    • Hit
    • Shove
    • Threatens
    • Kicks
    • Throws an object

    These are also common in bars, clubs, sidewalks, trains, private spaces and so on.

    The Magistrate Court following Section 313 of the code orders maximum punishments of;

    18 months imprisonment

    Fine of $18 000

    Aggravated cases may see the maximum penalty increase to a 3-year imprisonment term and a fine of $36 000.

  3. Assault Leading to Bodily harm
  4. Some assault cases may lead to a range of mild injuries to the sufferer probably causing them to be inactive for a while. Although such actions do not pose any life-threatening risk, they are still punished severely in the Magistrate's Court.

    Section 317 of the Crimes Code allows the Magistrate court imposes maximum penalties of ;

    • 2 years imprisonment term
    • $24 000 fines

    And for aggravated offences;

    3 years imprisonment term and $36,000 fine

    However, if the prosecution wins the appeal of having the matter handled in a District Court, the penalties are higher.

    The maximum penalties become;

    5 – 7 year imprisonment term depending on the circumstances of aggravation.

  5. Grievous Bodily Harm
  6. Assault cases leading to serious bodily harm are handled in a District Court under Section 297 of the Code. The prosecution must prove that the accused endangered the life and routine of the sufferer by their actions. Generally, this offence attracts harsher penalties, and some of these assault cases are ;

    • The person suffered a broken limb or arm
    • Partial or Total disfigurement
    • An attempt at manslaughter or more damaging injury
    • Burns/Acid bathing/Use of weapons
    • Reckless Driving, and so on.

    Those the District court finds guilty of these or other grave actions are liable to fines of 10 years imprisonment. The penalty may be increased to 14 years if the act was committed while attempting other indictable offences like; Stealing a car, at certain job roles, against certain role-playing individuals or in aggravated circumstances.

  7. Serious Assault
  8. It is a different and graver offence to assault a public official or Police officer on duty. The WA court punishes such offences severely under Section 318 of the Criminal Code.

    The code recommends a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment for all offenders. And a 10-year jail term in cases of aggravation or group assault cases.

    For cases where the Police, security, prison, Custodian’s officers suffer bodily injuries from the assault, the court must impose a non-commutable 6 – 9 months imprisonment term.

  9. Indecent Assault
  10. Section 323 of the code stipulates this offence does not even have to be sexually motivated. This offence covers acts of;

    • Harassments,
    • Stalking
    • Groping/attempted rape
    • Humiliating actions towards another
    • Threats to kill a person
    • Degrades a person with a weapon, act or intimidation

    Where the assault is one of indecent harassment or attack, the court can impose a maximum penalty term of 5 – 7 years imprisonment depending on the circumstances.

    If the case is handled in a magistrate court, the offender is liable to a 2-year imprisonment term and a $24 000 fine.

  11. Assault with Intent
  12. Assault can either be direct/indirect or physical/verbal.

    The District Court finds the person guilty of contravening the Section 317A of the Code if the prosecution proves that the accused wanted to;

    • Facilitate/Commit a crime
    • Cause Grievous Bodily harm
    • Prevent lawful arrest or detention,

    The Penalties recommended are;

    5 – 7 year imprisonment term depending on circumstances and matters of aggravation

    If the case is handled in a Magistrates court, it is treated summarily and imposes punishments of;

    $24 000 fines and a 2-year imprisonment term

    $36 000 fines and a 3-year imprisonment term for matters of aggravation

Wrapping Up

Can I defend an Assault charge?

Yes, you can, but you must engage an experienced lawyer to defend you in court.

How can I defend an Assault charge?

If you are charged with assault, your lawyers may explore different defences. Some of the plausible forms of defence plea are;

The accused acted out of self-defence; to protect their lives or others

Acted out of duress; they were not mentally, physically or emotionally sound (must provide evidence)

Acted out of provocation (Section 246 of the code); the sufferer in many ways "tortured" the offender into “assaulting” them.

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