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...

Reckless Wounding


In NSW, reckless wounding carries a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment. Where the offence is committed in company with another person, the maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment. Individuals are charged with reckless wounding where a person wounds another person causing actual bodily harm but does not cause an injury amounting to grievous bodily harm.

The Offence Of Reckless Wounding

The offence of reckless wounding is found in section 35(4) of the Crimes Act 1900 which states:

A person who:

  • wounds any person, and
  • is reckless as to causing actual bodily harm to that or any other person, is guilty of an offence.

The Offence Of Reckless Wounding In Company

The offence of reckless wounding in company is found in section 35(3) of the Crimes Act 1900 which states:

A person who, in the company of another person or persons:

  • wounds any person, and
  • is reckless as to causing actual bodily harm to that or any other person, is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty: Imprisonment for 10 years.

What Actions Might Constitute Reckless Wounding?

A person may be charged with this offence based on:

  • This offence is often charged where someone has been cut or stabbed.
  • The act of inflicting the wound must be reckless, meaning that the injury was a probable consequence of the defendant’s actions.
  • If the offence is committed in company, this means that it will have been committed with another person or persons present.
  • Therefore, punching, hitting, cutting or kicking another person causing the skin to break but not causing permanent or serious disfigurement might well lead to a charge of Reckless Wounding.

What Is Wounding?

A wound is an injury involving the breaking or cutting of the interior layer of the skin (dermis). Tthe breaking of the outer layer (epidermis) is not sufficient. Examples of a wound include a split lip or a deep cut. Generally speaking, the seriousness of the offence will significantly depend upon the seriousness of the wounding.

What Does ‘Reckless’ Mean?

  • The Crimes Act does not define recklessness.
  • Where the charge refers to the harm inflicted as grievous bodily harm, the Crown must prove that the accused at least foresaw the possibility of the infliction of grievous bodily harm resulting from his or her intentional act: Blackwell v R (2011) 208 A Crim R 392.
  • Similarly, in the case of the reckless infliction of actual bodily harm or reckless wounding, the Crown must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused foresaw the possibility of that particular type of harm resulting: Chen v R [2013] NSWCCA 116 at [65].

What Is ‘Actual Bodily Harm’?

  • Whilst the slightest touch might constitute an ‘assault’ in the basic sense of the word, the Police will generally not charge a person unless there is a significant degree of force applied.
  • Case law says that the injury does not need to be permanent, but “must be more than merely transient or trifling.”

Will I Get A Criminal Record From A Reckless Wounding Charge?

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

What Actions Might Constitute “Reckless Wounding”?

  • This offence is often charged where someone has been cut or stabbed.
  • The act of inflicting the wound must be reckless.
  • Therefore, punching, hitting, cutting or kicking another person causing the skin to break but not causing permanent or serious disfigurement might well lead to a charge of Reckless Wounding.

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 under section 10 there will be no fine, but there may be court costs (normally less than $80).

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

Reckless wounding is a Table 1 offence and is to be dealt with by the Local Court, unless you or the prosecution elect for the matter to be heard in the District Court on indictment. The summary disposal of these offences in the Local Court carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.

What The Police Must Prove

To convict you of Reckless Wounding, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You wounded a person.
  • The act was done recklessly as to causing actual bodily harm – to prove a wounding offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that, at the time of the wounding, the accused realised some physical harm may be caused and the actions were still taken and injury to a requisite level was caused.

The Consequences Of A Conviction

The consequences of a conviction can be serious depending upon what you do for a living. Some jobs require you to have no criminal convictions and a conviction for reckless wounding might jeopardise your job or make it difficult to obtain visas for overseas travel. Moreover a conviction for an offence of violence can completely rule out certain career paths such as teaching and a range of government employment options. Violent offences may also result in sentences that include imprisonment even where an individual has no previous convictions.

Such offences can be complicated if there are aggravating factors. It is important to get legal advice at an early stage to ascertain precisely what the consequences of a conviction may be and whether you have a defence to the charge. It is very important that you obtain legal advice before you take part in any police record of interview.

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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