Assaulting a Police Officer
In New South Wales, assaults against police officers are taken very seriously. There are a number of discrete charges relating to the assault of police. Each of these charges carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment. Any allegation of assaulting police is typically treated very seriously by the police, prosecution and courts. It is important that legal advice is obtained.
Section 60 of the Crimes Act 1900 provides for a number of offences committed against police officers in the execution of their duty. Offences that can be committed under that provision are:
- Assaulting a police officer where no actual bodily harm is caused (maximum penalty five years imprisonment);
- Assaulting a police officer during a public disorder where no actual bodily harm is caused (maximum penalty seven years imprisonment);
- Assaulting a police officer where the officer sustains actual bodily harm (maximum penalty seven years imprisonment);
- Assaulting a police officer during a public disorder where the officer sustains actual bodily harm (maximum penalty nine years imprisonment);
- Assaulting a police officer who sustains a wound or injury amounting to grievous bodily harm (maximum penalty 12 years imprisonment);
- Assaulting a police officer during a public disorder where the officer sustains a wound or injury amounting to grievous bodily harm (maximum penalty 14 years imprisonment);
What Actions Might Constitute Assaulting A Police Officer?
The slightest touch or causing an apprehension of immediate violence may technically be an ‘assault’. More commonly however the police will generally charge a person where there is a clear application of physical force, for example, punching, kicking, pushing or spitting on a police officer. Other actions towards might be categorised as hindering, intimidating or resisting police for which a different charge may be laid. It is not uncommon for such charges to arise during the course of an arrest.
There are circumstances in which an offence under this section can be made out even if the officer was not on duty at the time. These are:
- If the assault occurred as a consequence of or in retaliation for actions taken whilst the officer was in execution of their duty;
- If the assault occurred because that person is a police officer.
Defences To Assaulting A Police Officer
A person charged with this offence may have a defence available if it can be argued that:
- They were not the person alleged to have assaulted the officer;
- That they did not assault a police officer as alleged, or that what they did does not amount to an assault;
- That they did not have the relevant intent to assault a police officer;
- That the officer was not acting in the lawful exercise of their duties when an assault occurred;
- That they have a defence available to them, such as self defence, duress or necessity;
- If the offence requires proof of injury:
- That the injury did not amount to actual bodily harm; or
- That the injury did not amount to grievous bodily harm; or
That the prosecution cannot prove the case beyond reasonable doubt based on the admissible evidence (which may also include arguments to challenge the admissibility of evidence, including unlawfully obtained evidence).
What court will hear the matter
An offence where the officer does not sustain an injury or where the officer sustains actual bodily harm only are indictable offences that can be heard summarily (in the Local Court), unless an election is made for the matter to be heard in the District Court.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.