Common assault is defined by Section 61 of the Crimes Act.
There are a number of different assault charges under the act, ranging in severity from common assault to causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
There can be misinterpretation around what common assault actually involves.
According to the act, common assault includes where one person touches another person without their consent, or makes them fear for their physical safety.
However, physical contact doesn’t even have to take place to be guilty of common assault.
There can simply be the intention to cause fear to the other person, or recklessness as to whether the behaviour or the act would cause fear or hurt the other person.
Common assault doesn’t apply if the other person has consented to the contact, or during the normal course of sporting activities.
Common assault on its own is a less serious offence than other assault charges, such as assault occasioning actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm.
Whether or not there is a charge of common assault depends on whether there has been a significant degree of harm caused to the victim as a result of the behaviour.
In order to determine the charge, police will take into consideration any medical records and the impact the alleged assault had on the victim’s general lifestyle.
What penalties do I face for a charge of common assault?
If you are charged with common assault, you can choose to have the matter dealt with in either the local court or the district court.
Generally a common assault charge will be dealt with at a local court, unless you elect to have it heard in a higher court.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both, depending on the complexity of the case and what the expected penalty will be.
If the matter is heard in the local court, the maximum penalty will be 12 months imprisonment and a fine of $2,200.
If heard in the district court, the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment.
Other penalties that you can face for a common assault charge include a suspended sentence, a good behaviour bond, or community service.
What are the defences to a common assault charge?
There are a number of possible defences to a charge of common assault.
Your criminal lawyer will be able to advise you on the most appropriate defence.
Some of the defences to a common assault charge include self-defence, duress and necessity.
For you to successfully plead self-defence, you must be able to demonstrate that you acted in a reasonable manner according to the circumstance, and that you had a genuine reason to believe that your conduct was necessary to defend yourself at the time.
If you decide to plead guilty, you may be able to avoid penalties and a criminal conviction by asking the magistrate to deal with the matter under a section 10.
There are certain factors a magistrate or judge takes into account in ordering a section 10, including the nature of the offence, and the likelihood of you re-offending.
If you want to take this option, it is best to find a defence lawyer who is experienced in obtaining section 10 orders for clients charged with common assault.