Common assault

Common assault is where a person assaults another person but does not cause an injury amounting to actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm.

In New South Wales, common assault carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment. If convicted, it will appear on your criminal record and the court can impose any of the following penalties for a common assault charge:

    • Prison sentence
    • Periodic detention
    • Intensive correction order
    • Suspended sentence
    • Community service order
    • Good behaviour bond
    • Fine
    • Section 10: common assault proven but dismissed

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm

In New South Wales a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment or 7 years imprisonment if committed in company (Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1900). An assault occasioning actual bodily harm is a more serious charge than a common assault charge.

Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1900 does not define what amounts to actual bodily harm - this has been settled by case law. In simple terms, the phrase “bodily harm” means hurt or injury calculated to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim. The injury does not need to be permanent in nature, but the injury must be more than merely transient or trifling. Actual bodily harm is less than really serious physical injury, and does not require the breaking of the skin.

Typical examples of injuries capable of amounting to actual bodily harm include scratches and bruises. Actual bodily harm may also be occasioned where a victim has been seriously injured psychologically (ie. going beyond merely transient emotions, feelings and states of mind).

CRIMES ACT 1900 (relevant extracts)

33 Wounding or grievous bodily harm with intent

(1) Intent to cause grievous bodily harm A person who:

(a) wounds any person, or

(b) causes grievous bodily harm to any person,

with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to that or any other person is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty: Imprisonment for 25 years.

(2) Intent to resist arrest A person who:

(a) wounds any person, or

(b) causes grievous bodily harm to any person,

with intent to resist or prevent his or her (or another person’s) lawful arrest or detention is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty: Imprisonment for 25 years.

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.

61 Common assault prosecuted by indictment

Whosoever assaults any person, although not occasioning actual bodily harm, shall be liable to imprisonment for two years.

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  • Assault occasioning grievous bodily harm

    Criminal Lawyers

    In New South Wales, the charge of intent to cause grievous bodily harm charge carries a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.

    This is where a person assaults someone with the intent to cause serious injury. Section 4(1) of the Crimes Act 1900 defines “grievous bodily harm” to include the permanent or serious disfiguring of the person, the destruction of a foetus, and any grievous bodily disease. In the simplest summary of the case law, the words “grievous bodily harm” simply mean “really serious injury”.

    CRIMES ACT 1900 - s4(1) (extract)

    "Grievous bodily harm" includes:

    (a) the destruction (other than in the course of a medical procedure) of the foetus of a pregnant woman, whether or not the woman suffers any other harm, and

    (b) any permanent or serious disfiguring of the person, and

    (c) any grievous bodily disease (in which case a reference to the infliction of grievous bodily harm includes a reference to causing a person to contract a grievous bodily disease).