Is Assault Considered To Be A Violent Crime in NSW?

Is Assault Considered To Be A Violent Crime in NSW?

Is Assault Considered To Be A Violent Crime in NSW

There are several different assault charges in NSW, and depending on the severity, it may be considered a violent crime, and severe penalties will apply.

Find out more about assault in NSW, what constitutes a violent offence, types of assault and penalties involved.

Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Common Assault?

When a person intentionally or recklessly threatens or inflicts physical violence on another person, it is assault.

In New South Wales, assault is a criminal offence, and it is charged under the Crimes Act 1900.

Common assault often incurs no physical contact and very minimal injuries. Therefore, it is a lesser charge than some of the more violent assault offences, such as aggravated assault or grievous bodily harm. 

Assault can cause a person to fear that they will be subjected to physical violence and may not always involve the use of physical force, and in certain circumstances, threatening or intimidating behaviour, such as shouting or threatening to punch someone, may be sufficient to be charged with assault. 

To prove a common assault charge, the prosecutor must show that the accused intended to cause fear of immediate violence or that they acted recklessly.

Other Assault Charges In NSW

As well as common assault, which is the most prevalent in NSW, there are several other assault charges which are more serious and result in harsher penalties.

These assault charges generally fall into three categories:

  • Assault with a specific intention, such as intent to commit murder
  • Assault against a particular type of person, such as assaulting police
  • Assault that results in harm, such as inflicting actual bodily harm 

Actual Bodily Harm

When a person intentionally commits assault that results in actual bodily harm, such as an injury that interferes with the comfort and health of the victim, they may face a penalty of up to seven years in prison. Actual bodily harm assault may also include a prolonged psychological injury caused by the assault. 

Grievous Bodily Harm

Grievous bodily harm is when someone intentionally or recklessly wishes to inflict permanent or serious disfigurement to another person, such as broken bones or damage to internal organs, all resulting in ongoing medical problems.  

Grievous bodily harm is a violent crime and is a strictly indictable offence which is only heard in a District or Supreme Court and may incur a maximum penalty of up to 25 years imprisonment.

Wounding With Intent

It is an offence to wound someone with the intent of causing harm. Wounding involves breaking of the skin and may result in injuries such as a stab wound, cut or split lip.

Whilst the extent of the injuries may vary, they are considered serious forms of assault and can result in harsher penalties. 

Sexual Assault

A sexual assault offence involves having sexual intercourse with a person without their consent.

There are several different types of sexual assault charges, and the penalties will vary depending on the circumstances.

In New South Wales, the maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment.

Aggravated Assault

An assault charge may include aggravating factors resulting in a more severe penalty.

Actions that may aggravate an assault charge may include:

  • Use of a weapon
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Abuse of a position of authority
  • An offence committed in the presence of other people
  • A record for a similar offence
  • An offence committed whilst on bail or under AVO restrictions
  • Domestic violence context

In Which Court Are Assault Charges Heard?

The Local Court will generally deal with assault charges. More serious offences will be heard in the District Court and in some cases, the Supreme Court.

Serious criminal offences such as aggravated assault or sexual assault can not be heard in a local court as they are indictable and must have a trial by jury in a Supreme or District Court.

What Legal Defences Can Be Used For An Assault Charge?

When dealing with an assault charge, several defences may be applicable.

Lawful Excuse

A lawful excuse defence is an option when the defendant is legally engaged in an act of potential violence with the victim, and the risk of harm is acknowledged. For example, a lawful sporting event such as rugby, or a doctor treating a patient.

Consent

If there is consent by the victim, actions that may ordinarily constitute an assault will not apply as they have agreed to be in that situation.

Self Defence

Self defence may be an option when a person believes their actions were necessary to defend another person or themselves. Additionally, to stop property being stolen or destroyed, trespassing, or was necessary in the circumstances.

For a person to receive an acquittal based on self defence, the conduct must have been reasonable and not excessive.

Intoxication

An intoxication defence is only applicable to certain assault offences with specific intent. The court will consider the level of intoxication and liaise with police to determine when the defendant formed the intention to commit the crime. The relevant offences that are applicable are stated in a section of the Crimes Act 1900.

Lawful Correction

In New South Wales, parents can use reasonable force to discipline their children. The Crimes Act states what force is lawful when physically disciplining a child. Considerations for the child’s age, health and maturity are explained in the legislation. Parents must not hit their child on their head or neck, and the punishment must be for a short period. 

When a person is accused of a violent crime, they must seek legal advice from experienced criminal lawyers who can guide them through the legal process and provide valuable advice. 

What Mitigating Factors May Apply To Violent Crime Offences?

A mitigating factor can reduce the offender’s culpability for the crime and may justify a lower penalty. Several mitigating factors may apply to violent offences, such as the following::

  • There is no prior criminal record
  • The defendant has genuine remorse for the crime
  • Mental illness impacted the defendant’s actions
  • The defendant played a minor role in the crime
  • Personal circumstances impacted the defendant’s actions, such as abuse
  • Other circumstances explain why the offence occurred, such as extreme stress

What Are The Penalties For Assault In NSW?

Assault may be punishable by a prison sentence, fines or penalties may vary depending on the severity and circumstances of the crime. Legislation varies from state to state.

For common assault, the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment, and in certain circumstances, the court may grant a Section 10 dismissal, and the accused may avoid a criminal conviction.

With all other types of assault, the penalties are more severe as they are considered violent crimes. The court will consider the extent of harm and degree of violence involved before making a decision.

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm, assault on police officers and assault with intent to commit a serious indictable offence may all incur a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment.

Assault causing grievous bodily harm may incur ten years imprisonment.

Wounding or grievous bodily harm with intent may incur a penalty of up to 25 years imprisonment.

Summary

When a person intentionally or recklessly threatens or inflicts physical violence on another person, it is assault.

In New South Wales, assault is a criminal offence charged under the Crimes Act 1900. Assault may be punishable by a prison sentence, fines or penalties may vary depending on the severity and circumstances of the crime. Legislation varies from state to state.

As well as common assault, which is the most prevalent in NSW, there are several other assault charges, which are more serious and result in harsher penalties, such as assault causing grievous bodily harm or sexual assault.

Several defences are available when dealing with an assault charge, for example, self defence, lawful excuse or consent.

When a person is accused of a violent crime, they must seek legal advice from experienced criminal lawyers who can guide them through the legal process and provide valuable advice.

FAQs

What Is The Crime Of Assault In NSW?

When a person intentionally or recklessly threatens or inflicts physical violence on another person, it is assault.

Assault can cause a person to fear that they will be subjected to physical violence and may not always involve the use of physical force, and in certain circumstances, threatening or intimidating behaviour, such as shouting or threatening to punch someone, is sufficient to be charged with assault.

In New South Wales, assault is a criminal offence charged under the Crimes Act 1900. An assault charge may include aggravating factors, resulting in a more severe penalty.

What Is A Violent Crime NSW?

A violent crime is any offence where there is an intent to hurt or threaten to hurt another person. When an offender uses violent force upon their victim, such as aggravated assault or sexual assault, it becomes a violent crime, and the penalty for the offence will be more severe. 

What Is The Lowest Charge Of Assault?

Common assault often incurs no physical injury or very minimal injuries. Therefore it is a lesser charge than some of the more violent assault offences, such as aggravated assault or grievous bodily harm.

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