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Understanding your assault charge: how a conviction can impact your life

Assault is the most common form of victimisation in Australia, with the Australian Institute of Criminology reporting that in 2007, men aged 15 to 24 years have the highest rate of victimisation, most likely by a stranger and women aged 15 to 19 years more likely to be targeted by a member of their own family.

Assault is defined by the Criminal Codes 245 as:

“A person who strikes, touches, or moves, or otherwise applies force of any kind to, the person of another, either directly or indirectly, without the other person’s consent, or with the other person’s consent if the consent is obtained by fraud, or who by any bodily act or gesture attempts or threatens to apply force of any kind to the person of another without the other person’s consent, under such circumstances that the person making the attempt or threat has actually or apparently a present ability to effect the person’s purpose, is said to assault that other person, and the act is called an assault.”

Under the Crimes Act 1900, you can be brought up on four different types of assault charges, namely grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning bodily harm, common assault and stalking (may involve sexual assault).

Common assault

This is the most frequent type of assault charge, and may result in you being fined or you may be imprisoned. Common assault charges may be due to a threat issued to another person, an argument, or an altercation that ended in minor injuries. Your state or territory of residence will determine the penalty handed down if found guilty.

Grievous bodily harm

This type of assault is serious as it can end in the alleged victim suffering disfigurement or losing a part of an organ. Grievous bodily harm can be made with intent, can be reckless, or by an unlawful or negligent act. Each of these may carry imprisonment sentences by the court.

Assault occasioning bodily harm

This type of attack is more serious than common assault and may leave the alleged victim with injuries that may include bruising or swelling, and are severe enough to need
medical attention. If there is a weapon involved during the assault, then this type may be changed to aggravated assault.

Stalking and sexual assault

A charge of stalking can lead to a prison sentence, so it is important to be aware of all your options.

Sexual assault is classed when someone has been touched inappropriately or has been forced to commit or witness an act of gross indecency (not penetration, but watching the act of masturbation or forcing someone to touch their genitals).

The most serious form of sexual assault is rape, and can also be aggravated with the use of, or threatened use of a weapon.
If you find yourself in a position where you need to lay a charge of assault, we can provide you with the necessary advice to do so.

If you are the accused, you have several options available to you for your defence. Your defence may include self-defence or lawful correction. If you have been charged with multiple


Our criminal law specialist, Glenn Thexton, provides answers
to your common criminal law questions:

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