Common Assault charges are an extremely serious offence. If you have been charged with common assault, you need to contact the criminal lawyers at George Sten & Co for legal advice. Engaging an experienced criminal lawyer can make or break your case and here at George Sten & Co, we have over 50 years experience in criminal law. We have a deep knowledge and understanding of the law and the court system and can use this to your advantage.
Common assault refers to a situation where one person assaults another but does not cause bodily harm. It is specifically an act, and not an omission to act, requiring an intentional or reckless element to cause another to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence. It is significant to note this inclusion of the ‘apprehension’ element, as this means there may not be physical contact, but the threat of contact is substantial enough to warrant a charge.
It is stated in s61 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) that ‘whosoever assaults any person, although not occasioning actual bodily harm, shall be liable to imprisonment for two years’. Therefore, the maximum penalty available in the case of common assault is two years’ imprisonment.
This differs from assault occasioning actual bodily harm, which is contained in s59 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) and refers to ‘whosoever assaults any person, and thereby occasions actual bodily harm, shall be liable to imprisonment for five years’. Actual bodily harm is taken to be an injury that is more than ‘transient or trifling’, and refers to consequences of more serious assaults. Other types of assault include wounding or grievous bodily harm with intent, indecent assault, and reckless grievous bodily harm or wounding. These are all serious offences and are dealt with separately. The recklessness factor means behaviour where the act is not intentional, but the consequences of the act were apparent, and as such the other person fears injury. The fact that the offender continued to follow-through with the act is considered to be reckless.
Compared to the other types of assault outlined above, common assault is a relatively minor offence due to the fact that there have been no serious injuries stemming from the incident and presumably no major (or limited) contact. This means that common assault is generally considered to be as summary, or less serious, offence. The matter will likely be handled by the local court, with fines, community service orders and good behaviour bonds also options. The courts will take into account your criminal history and the nature of the incident. The severity or presence of physical contact and the circumstances surrounding the assault will be crucial to this assessment.
There are several elements that must be proven to meet the criteria for a common assault charge. These include that there was an intentional act which made the victim fear for their personal safety, or a reckless act which had no regard for the impact on the victim and the fear caused by the assault. Assault without contact could take the form of a feigned punch, as the important discerning factor is whether the victim apprehended violence, and not whether the strike actually connects. It is this element of fear that presides over non-contact assault. This could also include other types of intimidation or fear-provoking actions, such as stalking, harassing, invading the person’s privacy or even road rage.
A victim cannot consent to the assault, which is why football players are not susceptible to punishment for tackling or making contact – it is accepted that there are certain behaviours that come within the scope of the sport and thus are not necessarily actionable. However, in circumstances where what the player consented to in playing the game has been breached, such as by an illegal shot, there could potentially be recourse in the legal system. This is not particularly common, as normally such matters are dealt with by the sporting body itself through its own regulatory measures. Thus, only very serious breaches tend to become legal matters, and likely would fall out of the scope of mere common assault due to the fact that there would doubtlessly be a serious injury which precipitated legal recourse. Furthermore, there must also be no lawful excuse for the act, such as necessity or self-defence.
Due to the fact that there is such a broad range of behaviours that come within the ambit of common assault, certain matters may be dealt with more severity in terms of punishment or inquiry into the incident. For example, it is likely that incidences where there is a physical contact between the victim and the aggressor, such as striking or pushing, may be seen seen as more serious than something like spitting. As there is typically more of an emphasis on fines for this class of assault, there may be external materials that could be helpful in pleading your case, such as character references or a letter of apology.
If you have reason to believe that you may be charged with an offence related to common assault, or you have already been charged, contact one of our Common Assault Defence Lawyers. Based in Sydney, our legal team will protect your reputation and work to clear your name. We can provide expert advice to ensure that the matter is dealt with quickly and thoroughly.
George Sten & Co Criminal Lawyers Sydney, are available 24 hours for urgent legal advice. Talk to our Assault Lawyers Today! 02 9261 8640