Common Assault

In the ACT, the maximum penalty for common assault is two years’ imprisonment. Frequently, individuals are charged where a person assaults another person but does not cause an injury amounting to actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm.

The Offence of Common Assault

The offence of Common Assault is contained in Section 26 of the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT), which states: “A person who assaults another person is guilty of an offence punishable, on conviction, by imprisonment for 2 years.”

Will I Get A Criminal Record for Common Assault?

Yes. A criminal conviction is very likely unless the Court is convinced that it should exercise its discretion not to convict you of the offence.

The ACT sentencing database reveals that for the period 1 July 2012 to 30 April 2016 around only one in 20 assault charges resulted in no conviction. Almost a third of those found guilty were sentenced to prison (with half of those sentences suspended) while the overwhelming bulk of people (55.8 per cent) were placed on Good Behaviour Orders with only 7.5 per cent being fined.

What Actions Might Constitute Common Assault?

Whilst the slightest touch might constitute Common Assault usually police would not charge a person with Common Assault unless there was a significant degree of force applied or there was evidence that threats of violence had been made.

Punching, hitting or kicking another person without causing bodily harm might well lead to a charge of Common Assault.

Spitting upon another person. Spitting is treated as a serious form of the offence. Firstly it is seen as a somewhat disgusting thing to do to another person. Secondly, there is the possibility of the transfer of some sort of infection.

Threatening to hurt another person.

Can I Pay A Greater Fine to Avoid Being Convicted?

No, it is not possible to bargain with the court that you would pay a larger fine to avoid a criminal conviction. If the court deals with you by way of Non-Conviction Order, there will be no fine, but there may be court costs (currently $78).

What must be proven

To find a person guilty of common assault, the court must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • They struck, touched or applied force to another, or threatened another with immediate violence;
  • They did so intentionally, or recklessly;
  • They did so without the person’s consent;
  • They did so without lawful excuse.

Possible Defences for Common Assault

A person charged with common assault may rely on one of the following defences:

Which Court Will Hear the Matter?

Common Assault is a summary matter and will be heard in the ACT Magistrates Court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.


If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.


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