Legal Guide

What Australian Law Says About Assault Criminal Offences

Assault charges are not treated lightly in Australia. When you threaten someone, touch them against their will, or attack them with or without s weapon, you risk being charged with assault and the consequences can be serious.

In this article we will examine what constitutes assault under Australian law, what are the penalties for the various types of assault charges and ways you can find out if a conviction for this type of criminal offence will be disclosed during a routine background check.

What constitutes offence under the Australian law

In Australia, you can be charged with assault if you strike, touch, move or use force against a person without their consent, or in case said consent was obtained under false pretense. Even if the other person does not suffer a physical injury as a result of your action, it still represents an assault.

Moreover, under Australian law and in particular the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) , the threat to commit grave bodily harm or kill someone will be deemed an assault if the perpetrator has or appears to have the ability to carry out their threat.

What are the main types of assault in Australia

In Australia there are five main types of assault.

Common assault

This is the least serious and most common type of assault that can get you in front of a magistrate. A common assault charge can result from a simple scuffle or an argument that turns violent. If you shove someone or hit them, even with your bare hand, you can be charged with common assault. The same applies if you threaten that person or throw objects in their direction.

Assault causing bodily harm

You risk being charged with assault causing bodily harm if the other person sustains bruises or swelling, requiring medical care as a result of your attack. Using a weapon constitutes an aggravating factor.

Unlawful wounding

Unlawful wounding is when the attack is violent enough to cause penetration of the skin and bleeding. A charge of unlawful wounding should be backed by medical documents.

Grievous bodily harm

You can be charged with grievous bodily harm if the victim loses a part of an organ, is left disfigured, or the wound is so severe that it is life threatening if left untreated. Such a charge may refer to broken teeth or bones, head injuries or wounds causing severe bleeding.

Serious assault

With this type of assault, what matters most is not the nature of the attack, but the status of the victim. Any type of attack (including spitting and biting) committed against a public officer or police officer in the line of duty will result in a serious assault charge.

What are the penalties for assault in Australia?

When such a case goes before a judge, the ruling will take into account the severity of the injury, as well as the offender’s prior criminal convictions, if any.

All assault charges incur the possibility of a prison sentence, but it’s length can vary between 18 months and 14 years, for more serious attacks. The judge may take into account various mitigating factors and sentence the defendant to a fine, community correction orders, probation or a suspended sentence.

How do I know what’s on my record?

If you’ve ever been charged with some type of assault and don’t know if that conviction is still on your record, you should order a background check on yourself. No need to go down to the police station and relive painful memories. You can use an online criminal history check service.

This way you will know what past convictions are still on your record, which have become spent (only the minor ones) and how will your record look if you’re applying for a job or need to submit a police check for whatever reasons.


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