Common assault


Common assault

Did you know that threatening someone, pushing them or spitting on them may expose a person to the possibility of 2 years imprisonment or $2200 fine?

Common assault is one of the most prosecuted criminal offences in the Local Courts. Why? It is one of the broadest criminal charges in NSW. Facts supporting an assault charge may also contain circumstances which attract an offence of actual bodily harm (ABH), grievous bodily harm (GBH) or may attract ‘aggravated assault’. It is not unusual for the police to run several of these charges at once.

In this first post on assault, we want to discuss the elements of a common assault. In the coming weeks, we will discuss ABH, GBH and aggravated assault.

  • The offence of common assault is contained in section 61 of the NSW Crimes Act. To establish the offence, police must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person:
    Intentionally or recklessly acted in a way that caused another person to fear immediate and unlawful violence, and
  • Did so without lawful excuse.

Defences to common assault include self-defence, duress, necessity, lawful correction, and that the impugned conduct was a result of inevitable everyday life. It is a defence, for example, if you tap somebody on the shoulder to get their attention.

The maximum penalty for common assault depends on which court the prosecution elect to have the matter heard in. Usually common assault will be heard before a magistrate in the Local Court where the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment and/or a $2200 fine. However, if the police ask for it to be heard in the District Court, the maximum penalty increases to 5 years gaol.

If you are charged with assault, contact our office to talk to our expert criminal defence team.

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