Have you been charged with indecent assault?
There are a number of indecent assault penalties, ranging from avoiding a criminal conviction altogether by getting a ‘section 10 dismissal or conditional release order’ all the way up to a term in prison.
The particular punishment you face if you are convicted depends on the seriousness of the crime you are accused of committing compared to other indecent assault cases that have come before the court.
So what is indecent assault?
An assault is an act that causes another to fear immediate violence.
You don’t have to actually touch or injure another person to be found guilty of an assault.
For example, an air jab at someone can be assault if it caused that person to fear they were going to be subjected to a real punch.
Under section 61L of the Crimes Act 1900 NSW, an indecent assault is when a person assaults another, and at the time of the assault or immediately before or after it, that person also commits an act of indecency.
In essence, an assault becomes an indecent assault when it has a sexual connotation or overtone to it.
It’s indecent because the act is not in line with the respectable community standards of the day, and has caused the other person to fear unlawful violence, either sexual violence or ordinary violence.
For example, touching the private parts of a woman or man is an indecent assault.
Indecent assault penalties
There are a number of penalties you face if you are convicted of indecent assault, including:
- A fine.
- A good behaviour bond.
- A community service order.
- An intensive correction order.
- A suspended sentence.
- Prison – the maximum penalty for indecent assault is five years’ imprisonment. However, this is rarely invoked, as it is saved for the most serious of indecent assault offences.
The court’s approach to indecent assault penalties
The judge or magistrate first considers where in the spectrum of seriousness your offence lies compared to other indecent assaults that have come before the court.
It would certainly seem unfair for you to receive a harsher penalty than another whose offence was far more serious.
Arriving at a penalty based on the overall seriousness of the offence is the first step. Other factors are also considered, which may increase or decrease your penalty.
For example, if the judge or magistrate considers the offence is in the middle of the spectrum of seriousness, then they may have in mind a certain penalty, such as a good behaviour bond with a criminal record.
If you have pleaded guilty, or you have no prior convictions, they may reduce that first penalty to a lesser penalty, perhaps even a good behaviour bond without a criminal record.
This gives you credit for your early guilty plea and your good character.
On the other hand, if you have been convicted before for indecent assault, you are likely to find the court will increase the overall penalty.
What sentence might I get?
Dismissal, good behaviour bond, or community service order
If the offence is considered to be low on the spectrum of seriousness, an appropriate penalty may be a community service order, or a good behaviour bond.
If your matter is being dealt with in the local court, then this is a good indication that your offence is lower on the scale of seriousness.
The general sentencing trend for a first offence appears to be a good behaviour bond.
As discussed above, the sentence can be increased or decreased depending on the presence of any aggravating or mitigating factors.
If the offence is trivial in nature and is your first offence, a good criminal defence lawyer may try to avoid a criminal record by asking for a section 10 dismissal or conditional release order.
Suspended sentence, periodic detention, and imprisonment
If the offence is considered to be in the mid-range of the spectrum of indecent assaults, then a starting point may be a suspended sentence.
This means you are sentenced to a term of imprisonment, but its execution is suspended on certain conditions, such as entering into a good behaviour bond.
If you breach that bond, then your term of imprisonment commences.
If your offence is higher on the spectrum of seriousness of indecent assaults, then it is more likely that the penalty will be a suspended sentence or even imprisonment.
If your matter is being heard in the district court, then it is likely to be in the mid-range or higher on the spectrum of indecent assaults.
It is important to tell the court any mitigating features of your case, and show the court you are unlikely to re-offend and that you have acknowledged your offence. This can ultimately help to reduce your sentence.
A fine is not considered to be an appropriate penalty for indecent assault cases.
If you are facing conviction on a charge of indecent assault, it’s important to get advice from an experienced criminal defence lawyer with a good track record in indecent assault cases.