The festive season is upon us – bringing with it family, friends, champagne breakfasts and beers by the pool. Unfortunately, those extra alcoholic drinks over the Christmas break can get you into trouble.
WA Police statistics show that there has been a spike in assault charges in December and January for the past 3 years. Keep reading to find out what you should do if you or someone you know has been charged.
What is assault?
Assault is defined in Part 5 of the Criminal Code 1913. It can be defined as any striking, touching, moving or applying of force to another person without their consent, (as per section 222 of the Criminal Code 1913).
What should I do if I’ve been charged with assault?
If you are charged with assault your first step should be to seek legal advice. The severity of the assault will determine which Court you will need to appear in and what penalty, if any, you may receive.
What are circumstances of aggravation?
Circumstances of aggravation are particular circumstances that increase the severity of a crime. The Criminal Code 1913 lists the circumstances of aggravation for assault charges as follows:
- if the offender is a relative of the victim; or
- if a child was present during the offence; or
- if the victim is of or over the age of 60 years.
Types of assault:
- Common assault
Common assault occurs when a person has received minor injuries, usually as a result of being hit or shoved. If you are charged with common assault you will need to appear in the Magistrates Court. Generally, the maximum penalty for common assault is 18 months imprisonment and an $18,000 fine, however, circumstances of aggravation increase the maximum penalty to 3 years imprisonment and a $36,000 fine.
- Assault occasioning bodily harm
Assault occasioning bodily harm is an assault resulting in injuries that are relatively minor but do require medical attention. A good way to gauge whether the injuries amount to assault occasioning bodily harm is to ask yourself: does the injury interfere with the person’s health and/or comfort? This type of assault can be heard in the Magistrates or District Court. If heard in the Magistrates Court, the maximum penalty for assault occasioning bodily harm is 2 years imprisonment and a $24,000 fine or 3 years imprisonment and a $36,000 fine if circumstances of aggravation exist. In the District Court, however, the maximum penalty is much greater – 5 years imprisonment, or 7 years if it was an aggravated assault.
- Grievous bodily harm
An assault will be grievous bodily harm if the injury sustained is likely to, or does, cause serious and permanent injury, endanger life or result in death. Examples of such injuries may include broken bones or serious disfigurement. If you are charged with grievous bodily harm you will need to appear in the District Court. Grievous bodily harm is considered a very serious crime and carries much harsher penalties than lesser types of assault. The maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment, which can increase to up to 14 years if circumstances of aggravation were present.
What are my possible defenses?
There are multiple defenses that can be run in an assault case, with some common examples being self-defense and provocation. To successfully run a defense in Court you will need to satisfy particular elements, which will be best done with the help of a lawyer.
If you or anyone you know has been charged with assault please do not hesitate to contact Lynn & Brown Lawyers for advice. Our friendly and highly skilled staff will be able to assist you in obtaining the best outcome possible.
Tel: (08) 9375 3411
About the authors:
This article has been co-authored by Chelsea McNeill and Steven Brown at Lynn & Brown Lawyers. Chelsea is in her third year of studying Law at Murdoch University. Steven is a Perth lawyer and director, and has over 20 years’ experience in legal practice and practices in commercial law, dispute resolution and estate planning.