Talking about Assault

Assault Laws in Victoria

The law of assault can be complex, as there are separate categories and assault charges, each with their own unique circumstances and penalties.

Common categories of assault are:

  • Common Assault / Unlawful Assault;
  • Assault;
  • Aggravated Assault; and
  • Intentionally or recklessly causing injury.

Sometimes, even a threat to assault can result in a criminal charge where the victim feared that force would be used against them.[1]

The least serious is Common Assault (also known as unlawful assault) and is an offence where a person ‘unlawfully beats another’.[2] You may be charged with common assault where the alleged victim does not sustain injury, or the injuries were minor. For example, if you push or shove another person, without consent or lawful excuse, during a heated argument, you may be charged with common assault. The maximum penalty common assault is a fine of up to $2379 or three months jail.[3]

Assault is defined as an unlawful ‘direct application of force to the body or clothing of another’.[4] Serious categories of assault include aggravated assault and intention to cause serious injury. Aggravated assault can include situations where a group of two or more people are involved in the assault and carries a penalty of up to 12 months jail. If a weapon or other instrument is involved in the assault, the penalty increases to 2 years jail.[5] Further, alleged assaults against women or children carry penalties of up to $4955 or 6 months in prison.[6]

There are other penalties if the assault was against an emergency worker on duty, including mandatory jail time.[7] More serious categories of assault, which features an intention to cause serious injury or an intention to cause injury, also carries severe penalties of up to 20 year in prison.[8]

What the Police must prove

The Police must prove that you physically applied force to another person, without their consent or a lawful excuse, and did so with intent or reckless intent.

For more serious assault categories, the Police must establish that:

  • you committed the alleged offence;
  • that the alleged victim suffered injury; and
  • the assault resulted in the victim’s injuries.

The Police must also prove that you had the required intent to assault and cause the victim’s injuries or had a reckless intent.

Assault Defences

The circumstances of the incident are crucial and it is important to note that one incident may result in several charges. However, there are several defences available, depending on the circumstances of each case.

Firstly, you can contest the circumstances of the offence. Commonly, you can argue against an intention to assault the alleged victim or refuting any Police or Witness statements with a different version of events. You can also argue that you were not the person who committed the offence, had another lawful excuse or the victim consented.

Secondly, it is a defence if you believe the assault was carried out in self-defence, meaning that force was used by yourself to prevent harm. Thirdly, a defence can be raised if you were suffering mental impairment at the time. Finally, a defence also exists if you were under duress at the time of the assault.

We suggest that you should contact an experienced legal practitioner as soon as possible if you are to be interviewed in relation to this offence so that you can be provided with appropriate advice based on the circumstances relevant to your matter.

[1] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 31(1)(a); Slaveski v State of Victoria [2010] VSC 441.
[2] Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic) s 23.
[3] Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic) s 23. One penalty unit = $158.57, correct as at 01/01/2018.
[4] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 31(2).
[5] Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic) s 24(2).
[6] One penalty unit = $158.57, correct as at 01/01/2018.
[7] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 31(b).
[8] Crimes Act 1968 (Vic) s 16; s15A.

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