This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Assault Causing Death (One Punch Laws)


Assault causing death is one of the few criminal offences in New South Wales where mandatory minimum sentences apply. It is an offence that was introduced as part of a suite of “one punch laws” that were introduced in 2013 after a number of highly publicised one punch deaths. Mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment apply for persons who cause of death of another person in particular circumstances.This article outlines the offence of assault causing death in New South Wales.

What is assault causing death?

A person is guilty of this offence if they commit an assault:

  • By intentionally hitting;
  • With any part of the person’s body or an object held by the person;
  • The assault not being authorised or excused by law; and
  • The assault causes the death of the other person.

A person prosecuted for assault causing death is liable to imprisonment for 20 years. The offence is governed by section 25A of the Crimes Act 1900.

Assault causing death while intoxicated

This maximum penalty for assault causing death increases to 25 years where the assailant is intoxicated. The definition of “intoxicated” is not clear from the legislation, but the legislation indicates that someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.15g/L would be regarded as being intoxicated. If a person commits the offence of “Assault Occasioning Death” whilst intoxicated they face a mandatory minimum non-parole period of eight years.

Longer penalties than for manslaughter

This mandatory minimum sentence is significant because the majority of manslaughter penalties that are imposed by courts carry non-parole periods of between three and six years non-parole. A close examination of the statistics shows that, of the 189 sentences for the offence of manslaughter between July 2006 and June 2013, only 15 of them were of eight years or more. In other words, assault causing death attracts higher penalties than the penalties that would have been imposed had the offender been prosecuted for the offence of manslaughter.

Several other implications flow from this mandatory minimum penalty. One of these is that there is little motivation for most defendants to plead guilty, as courts do not have the discretion to impose a more lenient sentence than that stipulated as the mandatory minimum. A discount for an early appropriate guilty plea is therefore unlikely to be possible.

It remains to be seen precisely how this new section will be applied and the way in which the courts will deal with people who are being prosecuted for the offence of assault causing death. What is clear is that any person so prosecuted will require a very high quality of representation to ensure that their interests are protected in what is not only a very technical area of law but also an area of law that tends to attract a lot of media coverage.

If you have been charged with assault causing death or if you suspect you may be it is essential that you contact us as soon as possible so that you can be properly advised.

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

WHERE TO NEXT?

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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