Being charged with ‘assault occasioning actual bodily harm’ can have a lasting impact on your life and future.
But with the help of the senior defence team at Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, you can fight hard to beat the charges, leaving you free to get your life back on track.
What is the Offence of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm?
Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm is an offence under Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1900 which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison or 7 years where committed with another person.
Examples of Actual Bodily Harm include:
- a deep scratch or lasting bruises
- a ‘black eye’
- a psychiatric condition
What are the Penalties?
If you’re facing charges for assault occasioning actual bodily harm, you may be wondering what penalties you could face.
The type of penalty that you will receive depends largely on the facts and circumstances of your case – for example, the court will take into consideration the degree of violence used, as well as the types of injuries sustained by the complainant.
The type of penalty that you will receive also depends on the court that your matter is heard in –generally, your matter will be heard in the Local Court before a magistrate, where the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment, and/or a $5,500 fine.
However, in some cases, the prosecution may ask for your matter to be heard in the District Court, where the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment.
It is important to remember that these are maximum penalties which are reserved for the most serious cases only. The magistrate will determine the appropriate penalty in your case after considering all the facts and circumstances.
Statistics show that the most common penalty for assault occasioning actual bodily harm is a s 9 good behaviour bond.
A s 9 bond means that the court will require you to be of good behaviour for a specified period of time – in other words, you will not be allowed to commit any further offences.
The court may also impose additional conditions upon you – for example, you may be prohibited from entering a particular area.
What Does the Prosecution Have to Prove?
Before you are found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, the prosecution must prove five things beyond a reasonable doubt:
1) That you acted in a way that caused another person to fear immediate and unlawful personal violence OR that you touched another person without their consent
Your actions must have caused another person to fear some form of personal violence.
This may be by way of a threat or some form of conduct resulting in a serious psychological injury, or, most commonly, it may arise by way of some unlawful and uninvited physical contact which results in physical injury.
The threat must be immediate – a verbal threat of future violence will not constitute an assault, for example, ‘I’m going to ruin your life.’
2) That the other person did not consent to your actions
If there is physical contact, then it must be shown to be non-consensual – that is, the other person must not have given you permission to touch them.
3) That you acted intentionally or recklessly
Assault will not include situations where you accidently came into contact with another person, for example in large crowds.
The prosecution must prove that you intended to cause the other person to fear immediate personal violence, or that you did so recklessly; in other words, that you knew that your actions would cause the other person to fear immediate violence.
If your actions were reckless and resulted in physical contact, the prosecution has to prove that you realised that your actions may have resulted in some form of physical contact, however slight.
4) That you did not have a lawful excuse for your actions
It must be shown that you did not have some reasonable and lawful excuse for your conduct. For example, if you tackled someone whilst playing football and it was within the rules of the game, it would not constitute an assault.
5) Caused some kind of physical injury that is more than merely transient or trifling – for example, bruises or scratches, OR where you caused some form of serious psychological injury.
If the assault was physical, it must amount to some kind of physical injury that is not short-lived or transient, for example, bruises or scratches. Things which may not amount to assault occasioning actual bodily harm include swelling or small grazes which go away quickly; minor sprains which heal quickly, or loss of vision which you recover from quickly.
In the case of psychological injury, it must be shown to be something
serious which goes beyond transient emotions, feeling and states of mind.
What are the Defences?
Your Options in Court
Pleading Not Guilty
To be found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, the prosecution must prove five things beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you acted in a way that caused another person to fear immediate and unlawful personal violence OR that you touched another person without their consent;
- That the other person did not consent to your actions
- That you acted either intentionally or recklessly
- That you did not have a lawful excuse for your actions
- That you caused some kind of physical injury that is more than merely transient or trifling – for example, bruises or scratches, OR where you caused some form of serious psychological injury.
If you feel that the prosecution will not be able to prove any one of these factors, our specialist criminal lawyers can give you the strongest possible defence against the charges by presenting evidence to disprove the prosecution case.
Our expert lawyers have years of experience winning ‘assault occasioning actual bodily harm’ cases and will raise all possible defences to present your case in the most positive light, for example:
- Where you were acting in self-defence
- Where you were threatened or coerced into assaulting another person (duress)
- Where it was necessary to prevent serious injury or danger (necessity)
- Lawful Correction
- Where consent was given to the touching (consent)
- Where the touching was purely accidental – for example, where the contact occurred in a large crowd by mistake.
Remember, you can give yourself the best chance of getting a favourable outcome in your case by getting a reputable criminal defence lawyer on your side as soon as possible.
If you do not want to fight the charges, you may wish to enter a plea of guilty at the first available opportunity.
By pleading guilty at an early stage, you will show the court that you have accepted responsibility for your actions. Accordingly, the magistrate may be willing to give you a lesser penalty.
You will also avoid the time and expense of a defended hearing to determine your guilt.
However, before pleading guilty, you should speak to our expert criminal lawyers, who will be able to advise whether there is any way to fight the charges by pleading ‘not guilty.’
If you’re considering pleading guilty, you may be wondering what kind of penalties you could face.
Generally, your matter will be heard in the Local Court before a magistrate, where the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment, and/or a $5,500 fine.
In some cases, the prosecution may ask for your matter to be heard in the District Court, where the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment.
However, these are maximum penalties, so they will only apply in the most serious of cases. Our expert defence team can help you to avoid these harsh penalties by persuading the magistrate to impose a lesser penalty.
In some cases, our criminal law specialists may be able to persuade the magistrate to deal with the matter by way of a ‘section 10 dismissal or conditional release order,’ which is where you are found guilty but no conviction is recorded.
Ultimately, it will be up to the magistrate to decide the appropriate penalty after considering all the facts and circumstances of your case.
Our exceptional lawyers will persuasively present your case in the most positive light to increase your chances of obtaining a lenient penalty.
The penalties that the court may impose include:
Frequently Asked Questions
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Success Stories
- Not Guilty of Affray and Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm in Company
- Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm Charge and AVO Dropped
- Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm Charge and AVO Thrown Out of Court
- Not Guilty of Assault, Stalk/Intimidate, Damage Property, AVO and Costs Ordered Against Police
- Not Guilty of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm
- No Criminal Conviction Recorded for Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm
- No Criminal Record in the Downing Centre for Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm
- Not Guilty of Assault Charges and AVO after Defended Hearing in Downing Centre Court
- Client Avoids Conviction After Assaulting Bus Driver
- Client avoids Criminal Record after Assaulting a Security Guard