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Section 59 Crimes Act 1900
Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm

If you’ve just been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and you’re wondering what to do next, a great first step is to understand the charges and how they could affect you.

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm describes situations where you act in a way that causes another person to fear unlawful personal violence, and you cause that person some kind of psychological or physical injury that is more than merely ‘transient or trifling’ – for example, bruises or scratches.

The other person must be shown to have not given you permission to touch them or cause the injury.

While most assault cases involve touching another person without their consent, assault occasioning actual bodily harm can also include situations where you don’t physically touch another person, but you cause them to fear for their personal safety so much that they develop some kind of serious psychological injury – for example, where you threaten to hurt someone and they develop anxiety or depression as a result.

Section 59 of the Crimes Act says that if you are found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, you could face a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

You could face a higher maximum penalty if there was another person, or group of people with you when you committed the offence. In these situations, the maximum penalty is 7 years imprisonment.

However, these are maximum penalties, and will only apply in the most serious cases.

Defences to the charge include self-defence, duress, necessity, automatism and mental illness.

The Legislation

Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1900 deals with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and reads as follows:

59 Assault occasioning actual bodily harm

(1) Whosoever assaults any person, and thereby occasions actual bodily harm, shall be liable to imprisonment for five years.

(2) A person is guilty of an offence under this subsection if the person commits an offence under subsection (1) in the company of another person or persons. A person convicted of an offence under this subsection is liable to imprisonment for 7 years.

Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?

Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with. Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:

  1. Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results

    Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases.

    Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial.

    Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.

    We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.

    Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.

  2. Highest Level of Client Satisfaction

    We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia.

    Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities.

    We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.

    We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.

  3. Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm

    We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running.

    The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.

  4. Fixed Fees

    We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004.

    We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.

    Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.

  5. Free First Appointment

    For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers.

    We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.

  6. Specialist Lawyer Guarantee

    We guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court.

    This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.

  7. All NSW Courts

    From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases.

    And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.

  8. Accredited Specialists

    Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists.

    All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005.

    An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field.

    Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.

    Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.

  9. Results-Focused Law Firm

    Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet.

    The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’.

    Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.

    No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.

    The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.

  10. Team of Lawyers Behind You

    Our clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide.

    Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes.

    A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.

    In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.

  11. Familiar with Magistrates and Judges

    Each of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state.

    Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.

  12. Convenience

    We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:

    • the Sydney CBD, on Castlereagh Street, directly opposite Downing Centre Court,
    • Liverpool, directly opposite Liverpool Local Court, and
    • Parramatta, near the justice precinct.

    We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD and Liverpool locations, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.

    For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.

    If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at info@sydneycriminallawyers.com.au.

Recent Cases

Not Guilty of Affray and Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm in Company

Our client is a 26 year old university student from Western Sydney.

He was charged together with two other men in relation to a brawl between two groups of men outside a hotel in the Sydney CBD, during which a man was ‘bottled’ in the face causing significant injuries.

Our client was accused of being the person who committed the ‘bottling’, and was charged with Affray and Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (AOABH) in company.

Affray carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison while AOABH in company comes with a maximum of seven years.

Surveillance footage captured several men punching and kicking one another, and an independent witness identified our client as the person who used the bottle.

Our client could indeed be seen in the footage partaking in the melee, but the use of a bottle was not captured.

Our client’s instructions were that his actions were undertaken in self-defence and he did not use a bottle at any time.

The two other men who were charged pleaded guilty to both Affray and AOABH, and were sentenced accordingly. They were represented by two other specialist criminal defence law firms.

One of our defence team’s primary tasks was to ensure our client’s case was kept in the Local Court rather than being referred to the District Court, as the maximum sentence that can be applied to each charge in the Local Court is two years in prison.

We successfully persuaded the DPP to do this.

Having carefully scrutinised the CCTV footage and identified several inconsistencies in and between the statements of the prosecution witnesses – comprising the independent witness and the other men involved in the altercation – we advised our client to maintain his plea of not guilty and defence both charges.

The case eventually reached a defended hearing during which we stressed the inconsistencies within and between the statements, as well as procedural flaws in the identification process, and successfully raised the issue of self-defence.

Our cross-examination systematically dismantled the prosecution case, and as the prosecution was unable to ‘negative’ the possibility that our client acted in self-defence, the presiding magistrate found our client not guilty of both charges.

Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm Charge and AVO Dropped

Our client is a 53 year old man who lives in a unit complex in Western Sydney. He had been having trouble with a neighbour for some time due to that person regularly conducting parties during which loud music was played late into the night. He reported incidents to police but the neighbour refused to change his conduct. At around 1.20am on the subject morning, our client knock on his neighbour’s door to ask him to turn his music down. The neighbour told him to ‘fuck off’ and an argument ensued, which escalated into a physical altercation. The pair struck each other a number of times and the neighbour was eventually knocked to the ground. Police were called and our client was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm based upon a number of witness statements to the effect that he started the physical altercation and kicked his neighbour at least three times whilst the man was incapacitated on the floor of his apartment. Our client contended that the neighbour ‘threw the first punch’ and vehemently denied ever kicking his neighbour. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and opposed the associated apprehended personal violence order. Our defence team obtained statements from two of our client’s neighbour’s regarding the complainant’s prior aggressive conduct. We identified significant inconsistencies in the statements of the prosecution witnesses, all of whom were the complainant’s friends and were drinking alcohol that night. We wrote extensive ‘representations’ to police to the effect that the charge and APVO were unsustainable, and that we would be seeking an order for our client’s legal costs in the event that the case proceeded to a defended hearing and the charge and APVO were dismissed. After some negotiations, police withdrew both the charge and the application for an APVO.

Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm Charge and AVO Thrown Out of Court

Our client is a 48-year old man who lives in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. He was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm after an argument with his wife of 15 years escalated to a physical altercation at their home, during which the complainant allegedly sustained a range of injuries including a ‘black eye’, scratches and bruising. Our client pleaded not guilty and the matter eventually proceeded to a defended local court hearing. The prosecutor made a number of fundamental errors during the hearing which meant we were not required to put our client on the stand to give evidence of self-defence. Inexplicably, the prosecutor failed to show photos taken of the complainant’s alleged injuries to her whilst she gave evidence on the witness stand, which meant they were not admissible as evidence. The evidence take from the complainant was woefully deficient, and at the close of the prosecution case we submitted that there was no ‘prima facie case’ against our client. The magistrate accepted our submissions and the charge, as well as the associated application for an apprehended domestic violence order, were dismissed. Our client was prepared to take the witness stand and explain the situation, but we were able through experience to have the case disposed of before this was even necessary.

Not Guilty of Assault, Stalk/Intimidate, Damage Property, AVO and Costs Ordered Against Police

Our client is a 26 year old man who had been in a relationship with his female his ex-partner for over two years. Police alleged the pair were seated in the backseat of the complainant’s car when they began arguing about their future together. It was alleged the argument escalated, and our client then punched the woman at-least 4 times to the head, spat on her and threatened to kill her after issues about cheating were brought up. It was further alleged our client smashed the woman’s phone on the middle console. According to police, the woman began driving toward a police station when our client recommenced punching and slapping her across the head. The woman then allegedly stopped the car, directing our client to get out, which he did. She then went out with her friends, rather than immediately reporting the matter to police. One of those friends called police, who attended the hotel where they were socialising. Upon arrival, police noted a chipped tooth, a bruise to the woman’s left eye and several scratches and marks on her face. The woman was then conveyed to the police station where a Domestic Violence Evidence in Chief recording was made. The woman gave the above version of events, adding that our client called her earlier in the evening and threatened to harm her if she called police. Police attended our client’s home, arrested and conveyed him to the police station, before charging him with Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm, Common Assault, Stalk and Intimidate, Destroy and Damage Property and Use Carriage Service to menace or otherwise harass. Our client’s position was simple – that although there was a verbal argument over the phone, the allegations of a physical assault were fabricated. He said the complainant was a violent person and suggested she may have been involved in an altercation with someone else later that night. He was adamant that he did not meet up with the complainant at the time alleged. He said the complainant indeed accused him of cheating before going out with her friends, that she was angry and that she had made the allegations “in revenge”. We independently subpoenaed and obtained GPS tracking records which corroborated our client’s version of the events. We also independently obtained CCTV footage from the hotel in question, which indeed depicted the complainant having an altercation with another female. Police did not bother to obtain these materials, despite the fact they would have shown that our client was innocent of the charges and that the woman had engaged in a criminal offence by making a false complaint. We cross-examined both the complainant and the police officer in charge at length in court, after which it became clear the incident did not occur and that police had brought the charges without conducting investigations that would have made it clear our client was innocent. The magistrate dismissed all of the charges against our client. An application was then made for legal costs against police, which was granted. We have made a formal request for criminal charges to be brought against the complainant for making a false complaint.

Not Guilty of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm

Our client is a 29-year-old unemployed woman who was already on bail for assault offences. It was alleged that she became involved in a heated dispute with a female neighbour at her apartment complex in Western Sydney. The neighbour alleged that our client raised her voice and insulted her before punching her in the face, causing bruising and swelling to the eye. The incident occurred in full view of at least 2 other residents. Our client was arrested and taken back to Penrith police station where she was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm. She maintained that the neighbour lunged at her before she reacted. The charge was therefore defended on the basis on self-defence. We cross-examined the complainant at length in court, revealing her to be an elusive and unreliable witness. We also cross-examined police about their failure to take statements from the eye-witnesses. The Magistrate was not satisfied that the prosecution had discharged its burden of negativing the possibility of self-defence, and accordingly found our client ‘not guilty’.

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