The offence of common assault falls under section 61 of the Crimes Act.
According to the law, common assault includes touching another person without their consent, or making them fear for their immediate physical safety.
For a person to be guilty of common assault, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond reasonable doubt:
1. That there was an act by the defendant which intentionally, or recklessly, caused another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence.
2. That such conduct occurred without the consent of the complainant.
3. That such conduct was intentional or reckless in the sense that the defendant realised that the complainant might fear that the complainant would then and there be subject to immediate and unlawful violence and none the less went on and took that risk.
4. That such conduct was without lawful excuse.
Common assault is the least serious assault charge
Common assault on its own is a less serious offence than other assault charges, such as assault occasioning actual bodily harm, reckless wounding or causing grievous bodily harm, or intentionally wounding or causing 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?
Generally, a common assault charge will be dealt with at a local court, unless the prosecution elects to have it heard in a higher court.
In either case, the maximum penalty is 2 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $5,500.
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 raise self-defence, you must be able to demonstrate that you acted in a reasonable manner according to the circumstances, and that you had a genuine reason to believe that your conduct was necessary to defend yourself at the time. If self-defence is raised, the prosecution will need to ‘negative’ that possibility beyond a reasonable doubt – in other words, prove you were not acting in self-defence.
If you decide to plead guilty, you may be able to present factors which persuade the court to deal with you without imposing a criminal conviction.
If you are facing an assault charge, it is a good idea to seek the advice and assistance of a specialist criminal lawyer who is experienced in defending assault charges.