What is ‘Wounding’ in the New South Wales Criminal Law?

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Broken glass bottle

Three teenagers have been charged for allegedly assaulting another teen shortly after the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day.

It is alleged that the assailants, two of whom are aged 17 years and one 16, acted in company to assault the 16-year old complainant with a glass bottle just before 12.10am on 1 January 2023 on Ocean Street in Dudley in the Lake Macquarie area, inflicting severe lacerations on the boy.

Emergency services were called to the scene and the complainant was treated by paramedics, before being taken to John Hunter Hospital in a critical condition, where he was placed in an induced coma.

A crime scene was established and police arrested two males, aged 16 and 17, a short time later.

The third male, a 17-year old, attended Belmont Police Station a short time later where he was formally arrested.

All three suspects were charged with reckless wounding in company and recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, and were refused bail at the police station.

They were granted conditional bail by the Children’s Court later on New Year’s Day.

Investigations into the incident are continuing.

What is a ‘wounding’ in the criminal law?

A wounding is the breaking of both layers of the skin, being the dermis and epidermis. The courts have found that this includes a ‘split lip’.

When done recklessly or intentionally, wounding another person can amount to a criminal offence.

What criminal offences is ‘wounding’ an element of?

Wounding is an ‘element’ – also known as an ingredient – of a number of criminal offences in New South Wales.

The two most frequently charged wounding offences are ‘reckless wounding’ and ‘intentional wounding’.

The offence of reckless wounding in New South Wales

Reckless wounding is an offence under section 35(4) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) which carries a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You wounded another person, and
  2. You were reckless as to causing actual bodily harm to that or another person.

You were ‘reckless’ if you realised at the time of the infliction of the injury that you may possibly wound  or cause actual bodily harm to the complainant but went ahead with your actions regardless. 

Actual bodily harm is that which is more than ‘transient or trifling’ – in other words, more than just a superficial injury.

The offence of intentional wounding in New South Wales

Intentional wounding is an offence under section 33(1)(a) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You wounded another person, and
  2. You intended to do so.

The offence carries a ‘standard non-parole period’ of 7 years which is a reference point for the sentencing judge when deciding how long you must spend behind bars before being eligible to apply for release on parole.

Defences to wounding charges

If you have been charged with reckless or intentional wounding and are able to raise evidence of a legal defence, the onus then shifts to the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defence does not apply to the circumstances of your case.

If it is unable to do so, you are entitled to an acquittal; in other words, a verdict of not guilty.

Legal defences to wounding charges include self-defence, duress and necessity.

Self-defence is where you believed your actions were necessary to defend yourself or another person, or to prevent the unlawful deprivation of your liberty or that of another person, or to protect your property from being taken, destroyed, damaged or interfered with, or to prevent criminal trespass to your land, or remove a person criminally trespassing, and your conduct was a reasonable response to the circumstances as you perceived them at the time.

Duress is where your conduct arose due to an imminent threat made to you or someone close to you, in circumstances where the threat was continuing and serious enough to justify your actions.

Necessity is where you engaged in your actions to avoid serious, irreversible consequences to you or someone you were bound to protect, you honestly and reasonably believed you or the other person were immediate danger and your actions were a reasonable and proportionate response to the danger.

Going to court over a wounding charge?

If you are accused of a wounding offence, it is important to secure the services of specialist criminal defence lawyers with a proven track record of defending and winning these cases.

The defence team at Sydney Criminal Lawyers has decades of experience in having wounding charges ‘dropped’ in a timely manner through identifying inconsistencies, deficiencies and other flaws in the prosecution cases, as well as available legal defences, and intensely negotiating withdrawal, as well as having cases thrown out of court if they proceed to a hearing or trial.

Our team has built a track record of exceptional outcomes for our clients through tactical formulation, thorough preparation and effective execution of case-specific legal strategies that maximise the prospects of the prosecution relenting or the magistrate, judge or jury being persuaded that the prosecution has not proven its case.

So if you or a loved-one are going to court for a wounding offence, call us anytime to arrange a consultation with one of our senior lawyers and let us look after the legal side of things, so you can get on with your life.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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