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In NSW it is an offence to physically assault, cause harm to or injure someone. It is also assault if you threaten someone to the extent that they believe physical violence or harm is imminent.
There are many different types of assault offences. These offences range from minor assaults, including common assault which carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment, to very serious assaults, such as inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.
You can be acquitted of assault if it is found that you acted in self-defence and what you did was reasonable in the circumstances.
Under legislation, a person who successfully shows that they acted in self defence will be acquitted of the offence. Division 3 of Part 11 of the Crimes Act 1900 contains a number of provisions concerning the defence. The primary provision is section 418 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) which states:
To raise self-defence you need to enter a plea of not guilty. Your matter will then proceed to a hearing or trial in which you can raise self-defence as the reason for your conduct which might otherwise constitute an offence of assault. The prosecution will then need to prove that you were not acting in self defence.
Self-defence can be raised:
Importantly, self-defence will only be successful if what you did was reasonable in the circumstances. This means that your response must be proportionate to the threat, harm or crimes that you were responding to. For example, shooting someone who shoves you in the chest, or even punches or attacks you is unlikely to be found to be a reasonable response. Similarly, injuring a person who is trespassing on your property is unlikely to be reasonable. However it all depends on the circumstances of the case.
Examples where self-defence can be successfully raised by someone charged with assault include:
If you are charged with an assault offence and raise self defence, the police need to negate the defence, that is to prove that what you did was not actually in self defence. To prove that you were not acting in self defence, the police will need to prove beyond reasonable doubt:
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.