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Types of Assault Charges in Australia

The information on this webpage is to be read in conjunction with this disclaimer:
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.

Maintaining the sanctity of life and the dignity of every human means sniffing out any potential threats to them. All threats or portents of malicious acts are Assaults.

An assault is hardly a "simple" offence in Australia. Although the court may in many cases treat it as a summary offence, it could be an indictable offence.

The Court considers plenty of factors in pronouncing an accused person or group guilty or free of an assault. And the Criminal codes of the various States have legislations that term the type and nature of an assault.

What is an assault under the Law?

How does the court determine if there is a case of an assault? Or the degree to which the offence is perpetuated? And what punishments does the law pronounce for the individual?

A court finds an assault against a person if they;

  1. The Person strikes, touch, moves or apply any force to another person;
    1. Directly or indirectly
    2. Without the other person’s consent
    3. Obtained their consent by fraud
  2. Threaten, gesture or attempt to apply a force of any kind on the other person
    1. Following a,b,c above
    2. And has the ability or apparent power to affect the plan

If there is proof of any of these, the accused is pronounced to have assaulted the subject. The Prosecutor must prove to the court with evidence, witness or even proof of injury (medicals) that their client (sufferer) was assaulted.

If a person or group of people assaults you in Australia, you should seek an experienced lawyer to get justice, or in most cases “damages” paid to you.

What are the five types of assault?

However, Assaults may come in various forms depending on the state, place or environment where the event happens.

These are divided into five main categories under the Australian and Commonwealth laws. More so, some states may also update their legislations on Assaults and have additional categories.

  1. Common Assault
  2. These are the “commonest” types of assault handled in the Australian courts. The charge for a common assault can range from a simple scuffle to a fully pronounced threat. However, the more intense and serious the scenario or threat the likelier the person gets a conviction that will also appear on their police check.

    Here are some of the examples of a simple assault;

      ✔ Scuffles

      ✔ Pushing/Shoving

      ✔ Violent hand gestures

      ✔ Verbal/Oral threats

      ✔ Physical/Cyber harassment

      ✔ Potentially dangerous behaviour

      ✔ Irresponsible actions towards a person

      ✔ Spitting on a person

      ✔ Throwing an object to injure a person

      ✔ Inflicting minor injuries on a person deliberately/accidentally

    The Penalty for a common Assault can vary across the States in Australia. The court will decide the offender's punishments depending on;

    • Severity of offence
    • Extent of harm
    • Past criminal records

    The maximum penalty for this kind of offence is an 18 months imprisonment term and a fine of $18 000. However, if the offence follows a sequence of events and borders on aggravation, the maximum penalty term rises to 3 years with a fine of $36 000.

  3. Assault Occasioning Bodily harm
  4. As the name suggests, there needs to be proof that the offence has caused the sufferer "serious" bodily harm. Mostly, the court will request a medical report on the injury or some proof that the harm led to time-of-work or partial or total invalidation.

    If the accused used a weapon or threatened/attempted to use it, the charge can be updated to an aggravated assault.

    Some examples include;

    • Tripping a person
    • Serious blows
    • Causing harm through chasing, hitting, and so on
    • Hitting with a weapon
    • Violent actions

    Depending on the severity of the case, it is either handled in a Magistrate or district court.

    For minor cases handled in a Magistrate court, the attacker/accused may get a maximum imprisonment term of 2 years and a fine of $24000. However, if the offence was a case of aggravation, the term may increase to 3 years, and a fine of $36 000

    For serious cases handled in a District Court, the maximum penalty for offenders is 5 years imprisonment. However, this can increase to 7 years for aggravation cases.

  5. Unlawful Wounding
  6. In some cases of assault, the sufferer may have to deal with bleeding and severe bruising. It includes penetrating the outer skin, bleeding, and so on. However, if the offence does not lead to bleeding or penetration to the outer skin, it cannot be classified as unlawful wounding.

    When handling such a case, the court will request medical proof of bleeding or injury from the assault.

    The assault is "upgraded" if a weapon is used to commit the offence.

    Most cases of unlawful wounding are handled in the District Court and can attract punishments of up to 7 years.

  7. Grievous Bodily Harm
  8. Offences related to this form of assault are grave and handled in a district court. Grievous bodily harm occurs when the actions of the accused cause the sufferer to;

    • Lose an organ
    • Lead to disfigurement
    • Cause permanent/ serious temporal injury
    • Loss of body functions/Use (Limbs, speech, sight, and co)
    • Serious bleeding
    • Life-threatening injuries
    • Head injury, and so on

    The Prosecution counsel must prove to the District Court that their client was grievously assaulted usually with a Doctor's or Physio report.

    Convictions in such an offence carry a maximum penalty term of 10 years. However, the maximum penalty term can increase to up to 14 years if the accused commits the offence while;

    • stealing a car,
    • working in certain roles like; Health care workers, ambulance officer, court officer
    • cases of aggravation.

    If the court finds the accused guilty of the offence, it will mostly order a jail term.

  9. Serious Assault
  10. The court considers a serious assault as one against a public or Police officer in the line of duty. Any of the following public officers during an assault are;

    • Transit officer
    • Health Service employee
    • Correctional officer
    • Child correction officer
    • Police or Paramilitary officer
    • Public post officer

    This offence can take various forms depending on the event, and degree such as;

    • Biting an officer
    • Spitting on an officer
    • Scaring an officer with a weapon
    • Threatening public officers with a weapon

    Furthermore, this charge covers all assaults against certain vulnerable people of the society like;

    • People who rely on guides
    • Hearing or assistant dog
    • People on wheelchair
    • People over 60 years of age

    The maximum penalty for a serious assault is a 7 years imprisonment term, and 14 years term for intentional assault against a Police officer.s

    In States like Queensland (QLD), assaults involving spitting on a Police officer are punished severely and will always show up on a person's police check. The offender may take some ameliorating steps such as;

    • Submitting a written apology to the Police officer
    • Providing a person’s medical history to show that they suffer from non transferable disease (where appropriate)
  11. Sexual Assaults
  12. All actions under gross sexual indecencies; in public or private places are classified as sexual assaults. The actions that fall under this offence are;

    • Forcing someone to touch genitals
    • Rape,
    • Sexually derogatory words,
    • Touching without consent,
    • All non-consensual sexual acts,
    • Other improper sexual advancements,
    • Requesting sex for role/favours (workplaces, schools, and co)

    Forceful sexual intercourse or penetration or rape is the highest form of sexual assault and usually attracts grave punishments.

    Most Sexual assault cases are heard in a district court and attract a penalty of up to 14 years. In cases where a weapon is used to humiliate, threaten or further assault the sufferer, the court may order an extended imprisonment term.

Penalties for an assault charge

In general, the penalties for assault charges depend on the nature of the offence, degree of injury and criminal history of the offender.

The court can also order the following punishment in addition/instead of the sentencing term;

  • Good behaviour bonds
  • Fines
  • Community service
  • Parole
  • Jail sentence with immediate parole
  • Jail sentence wholly suspended
  • Intensive corrections order
  • Reduce Term of actual imprisonment

Pleading to an Assault charge

If you are served an Assault offence, you must be present in court with a legal rep to answer your assault case. It does not matter the type or category. Non-appearance in court or not having a legal representative can lead to further punitive measures.

The court treats all forms of Assault seriously, especially in aggravated cases or repeat offenders.

  1. Pleading Guilty
  2. Before pleading guilty to an assault offence, you should exhaust all possible options with your lawyers. Although the court may consider your ready admission of guilt, it still treats assault cases with all severity.

    However, if you feel the defence is irrefutable and your legal team believes you stand no chance, pleading guilty may earn you a lesser action from the jury.

    In most cases, except in an utmost state of compunction, pleading guilty does no good, and will stain your police check results.

What happens if they plead guilty to an assault charge?

Depending on the seriousness of the charge, the offender may get a bond, fine, a correction order or gaol. And the court may not register a conviction against your name on the police checks. However, it depends on the degree, nature or prior history of the offender

Your legal team will precisely determine which offences you plead guilty to. Mostly, the Police or Prosecutor will lump additional or related charges to your original charge of assault.

Your lawyer will make sure you only plead guilty to the appropriate charges and make sure to withdraw others

Other factors can also ensure you receive lesser sentences when you plead guilty.

  1. Pleading not guilty
  2. With a strong defence and refute to every case from the prosecution team, you can successfully win a not guilty plea. If the prosecution team cannot provide satisfactory evidence of an assault case, the court will dismiss the case.

    Also, your legal team in communication with the prosecution can have the matter withdrawn. at an early stage.

    You should plead for a not guilty case

    if you can;

      ✔ Prove before the court that you acted out of self-defence

      ✔ Prove that the act was accidental, and had no malicious intent

      ✔ Prove that there was consent (sufferer trying to mislead the court)

      ✔ Prove that charge was listed outside 12 months of the offence date

      ✔ Prove that some of the offences

      ✔ Prove that it was an act of compulsion

Are Verbal threats considered an Assault?

Threats to seriously injure, kill or destroy another person's property are considered seriously in the court. However, the threat must create fear, and in most cases, the prosecution will prove that the attacker has the capabilities for such.

Threats to kill, Rape, Molest, Injure can attract prison terms of up to 10 years.

Actions that are not defences for an assault

The general state criminal codes outline that actions and defences of assaults must be proportional to the crime and not excessive.

If the protection or guarding of private property against trespassers results in their death, the court may strike out the "defence from assault” plea. And can enter a manslaughter or Murder charge.

Do you need a Lawyer to answer an assault charge?

Don't take the risk of "self-representing" to answer an assault charge; the likelihood of a jail term is too high. The police lumps assault charges with many other irrelevant charges that only a law expert can solve.

Furthermore, having an Assault conviction can be detrimental to your prospects as it will reflect on your police record check in Australia.

Assault convictions are one of the numerous convictions in a Disclosable Court outcome.

What is a police check in Australia?

When applying for any of the following, you will need to submit a valid police check Australia as part of the requirement;

A nationally coordinated criminal history check (NCCHC) contains the updated convictions records of the candidate following the State's legislation. It is issued by comparing the candidate's data with the Australian criminal database.

Will an Assault conviction affect my application?

All agencies and organisations within Australia apply independent means of interpreting a nationally coordinated criminal history check result.

For roles such as Child care, aged/vulnerable care services, checks for aged care workers, Public drivers, and related roles, a sexual assault or similar may affect your chances of getting the roles.

With records of assault in corporate spaces, an organisation may refuse admission into their space.

Where can you get a police check?

In addition to using a police check as an application requirement, some persons may want to confirm the convictions on their own Police records. Any candidate can apply through Australian National Character Check.

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