Being charged with assault can be a very stressful experience. A conviction of assault can have serious impacts on your family, your job prospects, and your ability to travel overseas. It is therefore of the utmost importance to have specialist lawyers acting for you who can ensure the best outcome possible.
Types of Assault
There are a number of common types of assault that people are charged with, with different elements that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Common types of assault include the following:
· Common Assault;
· Assault occasioning actual bodily harm;
· Reckless grievous bodily harm (GBH) or wounding; and
· Grievous bodily harm (GBH) or wounding with intent.
A charge of common assault is the least serious type of assault that you can be charged with. However, a guilty verdict can still have a monumental impact on your lie. In NSW, the charge of common assault is found in s61 of the Crimes Act. A common assault is any unlawful touch of another person that does not actually cause any injury. Common examples of common assaults include punching, kicking and spitting on another person.
The lightest touch of another person can constitute an assault. Indeed, it is enough for you to cause another person to fear an immediate unlawful contact, without having actually touched the other person, for you to have committed assault. Under the Crimes Act, the maximum penalty for this offence is two years imprisonment.
In order to be convicted of common assault, the following elements must be proven:
1. You unlawfully touched another person, or you caused them to anticipate immediate unlawful force through your actions;
2. You did so recklessly or intentionally; and
3. The other person did not consent to your actions
If these elements are not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, you will not be convicted of common assault. If an actual injury is caused to the other person, then you will be charged with a more serious form of assault.
Assault occasioning actual bodily harm
If you assault someone and they receive a ‘non-trifling’ injury, then you will be charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, as under s59 of the Crimes Act. Examples of injuries that would constitute actual bodily harm, but not amount to a more serious injury, include bruising, deep scratches or a black eye. Assault causing actual bodily harm carries a maximum sentence of 5 years. If you are found to have committed this offence while accompanied by other people, the maximum sentence will instead be 7 years. In order to be successfully convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, the prosecution will need to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. You unlawfully touched another person, or you caused them to anticipate unlawful force through your actions;
2. You did so recklessly or intentionally;
3. The other person did not consent to your actions; and
4. Through your unlawful actions you caused injuries to the other person that were more than ‘merely transient’.
If these elements are not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, you will not be convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Reckless grievous bodily harm or wounding
If you are alleged to have caused a serious injury to someone else, such as an injury that is life-altering or disfiguring to the victim, or else causing a wound (an injury that causes a break in the skin such as a split lip or a stab wound) then you will be charged with causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) or wounding.
If it is not alleged that you caused this harm intentionally, but were still reckless about whether you would cause this harm to the other person, you will be charged with causing reckless GBH or wounding under s35 of the Crimes Act.
To be convicted of reckless GBH or wounding, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. You applied unlawful force to another person
2. This unlawful force resulted in a grievous injury or a wound
3. You were reckless as to whether your actions created a risk of inflicting a grievous injury or wound.
The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years in prison for causing GBH, and 14 years for causing GBH in company. The penalties are 10 years for wounding in company, and seven years for wounding someone when acting alone.
Grievous bodily harm or wounding with intent
If it is alleged that you inflicted the injuries with intent, or on purpose, you will be charged with GBH or wounding with intent, under s 33 of the Crimes Act NSW. This is more serious than simply inflicting grievous injury recklessly, but it is also more difficult to prove, as, along with the above elements, the prosecution must successfully prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to cause a grievous injury or wound at the time of the offence. The maximum penalty for this offence is 25 years in prison.
There are a number of defences available to those who are charged with an assault offence. Depending on your circumstances, one of these defences may be available in your case.
If you can prove on the balance of probabilities that you were acting in self-defence, you will be found not-guilty of the charges against you. The requirements to prove self-defence are found in s418 of the Crimes Act. In order to successfully raise the defence of ‘self-defence’, you must be able to prove two things on the balance of probabilities:
1. That you believed your conduct was necessary to defend yourself, another person, or property; and
2. That your conduct was a reasonable response to the circumstances as you perceived them.
You will not succeed in this defence if, for instance, you are able to prove that you believed your conduct was necessary to defend yourself, but are unable to prove that your response was reasonable or proportionate. For instance, it may be very difficult to prove that your conduct was reasonable if someone threatens to push you and in response you stab them. The more serious the assault charge against you is, the harder it will be for you to prove on the balance of probabilities that you were acting in self-defence.
Other defences that you may be able to consider, depending on the circumstances of your case, include arguing that you were acting under duress – that someone was forcing you to carry out illegal acts by threatening you with death or serious harm.
Another defence that may be available is to argue that you were acting out of necessity, where you honestly believed that your illegal actions were necessary to prevent death or serious harm. An example of this would be if there was a fire and you push someone out of the way while trying to escape. The defences available to you will depend on the circumstances of your case. It is therefore very important to have a specialist defence lawyer who will be able to examine all the aspects of your case and advise on the best path to take.
Should I plead guilty or not guilty to an assault charge?
Whether or not you should plead guilty to an assault charge will depend on the circumstances of your case and the evidence against you. Even if you are found guilty of an assault offence, with a specialist lawyer, the impact of this conviction can be minimal.A specialist lawyer will be able to look at the circumstances of your case and advise whether a guilty or not guilty plea is most appropriate in the circumstances.
If you are currently facing an assault charge or another criminal charge, we are here to help. Our team at Sydney Criminal Law Specialists are experts in all areas of criminal law.
Get in touch at 0434 856 436 or click here for a free consultation today!
The information provided on this website is for general informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice.