The Difference Between an Act of Indecency and Indecent Assault in NSW


There are a large number of different sexual offences in NSW, which range in severity from summary offences to indictable offences with serious penalties such as long-term imprisonment.

There is a lot of very specific terminology surrounding sexual offences, and this can often lead to confusion.

If you have been charged with any offence, it is important to understand the charges against you and what they mean, so that you can prepare an adequate defence.

Two offences that are often confused are those of committing an act of indecency and indecent assault in NSW.

Although these offences are similar in a number of ways, they carry different penalties and there are a few other differences that set them apart.

If you have been charged with either one of these offences, it is important that you are aware of the differences and what the potential penalties may be.

Indecent assault

For a charge of indecent assault to be made successfully against you, there needs to have been an assault committed against another person along with an act of indecency either during the assault or very soon before or after it.

In order to prove a charge of indecent assault, the prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that both the assault and the act of indecency took place.

An indecent assault does not have to be a physical assault on another person; it can include threats and intimidation.

For a charge of indecent assault it is enough if the prosecution can show that a reasonable person would have feared for their safety under the circumstances.

Indecent assault is distinct from a straightforward assault charge in that there needs to be a sexual element to the assault.

This usually involves touching in a sexual way or to obtain sexual gratification, particularly in certain areas that are considered to be sexual.

Indecent assault in NSW carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

In some cases, such as if the alleged victim was under your authority at the time of incident, the indecent assault can be considered ‘aggravated’.

This can lead to increased penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment.

Act of indecency

Anc Act of Indeceny can be part of an indecent assault, or it can be a criminal charge on its own.

The definition of ‘indecency’ changes as the social boundaries alter, but it is generally defined as any act that a ‘right minded’ person would find contrary to acceptable standards of decency.

The definition of an act of indecency depends on community and cultural standards of the time.

For an act to be considered ‘indecent’ there needs to be a sexual connotation present.

The act of indecency does not necessarily need to be performed on the victim; it can be something that happens in front of the victim.

You can also be charged with committing an act of indecency if you incite someone else to perform an indecent act on a third party.

If you are found guilty of committing an act of indecency you may be liable for up to two years imprisonment.

If you are facing any sexual charges such as indecent assault in NSW it is essential to seek legal help from an experienced criminal lawyer.

Having a sexual offence on your criminal record can limit your employment options, lead to registration on the sex offender’s registry and have other repercussions for your future.


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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers, Sydney's leading firm of criminal and traffic defence lawyers.
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