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This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom - Content Editor - Brisbane

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

Assault Offences (WA)


Assault offences in Western Australia are governed by the Criminal Code 1913 (the Code). Assault offences range from common assault, which is generally dealt with in the Magistrates Court to grievous bodily harm which must be dealt with in the District Court. Assaults of a sexual nature that fall short of sexual assault are generally charged as indecent assault. Assaults can attract a range of penalties depending on the circumstances of the offence and of the offender. These include fines, community-based dispositions and terms of imprisonment.

What is an assault?

Section 222 of the Code defines an assault as any instance of a person touching or applying force to another person without the other person’s consent, or attempting or threatening to do so.

An assault may consist of a slap, punch, push, or through the indirect application of force, such as by throwing something at another person. A person can be found guilty of an assault whether or not injury was caused to the person assaulted.

An assault in circumstances of aggravation occurs when:

  1. the offender is in a domestic or family relationship with the victim;
  2. a child was present;
  3. the conduct breaches the terms of a restraining order;
  4. the victim is 60 years or older; and/or
  5. the offence is racially motivated.

Common Assault

The offence of common assault is set out in Section 313 of the Code and are dealt with by the Magistrates’ Court.

The maximum penalty for a common assault is 18 months imprisonment and a fine of $18,000.

Where the assault occurs in circumstances of aggravation, the maximum penalty that applies is three years imprisonment and a fine of $36,000.

A prosecution may be commenced for a common assault at any time.

Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm

Section 317 of the Code makes it an offence to commit an assault that causes bodily harm.

Bodily harm is any kind of physical injury that interferes with the victim’s health or comfort. Such injuries may include minor cuts and bruises, or injuries that are relatively minor but require medical intervention, such as stitches or pain killers.

This offence is dealt with in either the Magistrates’ Court or the District Court.

When a matter is heard in the District Court, the offence carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment; however, this may increase to seven years imprisonment if the offence occurs in circumstances of aggravation.

For cases heard summarily (in the Magistrates’ Court) the maximum penalty that may be imposed is two years imprisonment and a fine of $24,000. If the offence occurred in circumstances of aggravation, the maximum penalty that the Magistrates Court can impose is three years imprisonment and a fine of $36,000.

Assault with Intent

Section 317A of the Code makes it an offence to assault a person:

  1. with the intent to commit a crime or facilitate the commission of a crime;
  2. with the intent to commit grievous bodily harm to any person; or
  3. with intent to resist or prevent the lawful arrest or detention of any person.

When a matter is heard in the District Court, the offence carries a maximum penalty of five (5) years imprisonment; however, this may increase to seven years imprisonment if the offence occurs in circumstances of aggravation.

For cases heard summarily (in the Magistrates’ Court) the maximum penalty that may be imposed is two years imprisonment and a fine of $24,000. If the offence occurred in circumstances of aggravation, the maximum penalty that the Magistrates Court can impose is three years imprisonment and a fine of $36,000.

Assault offence involving Grievous Bodily Harm

Section 297 of the Code, makes it an offence to commit grievous bodily harm to another person.

Grievous bodily harm is defined as any bodily injury of a serious nature that is likely to endanger life or cause permanent injury or death. This charge may be laid when the victim of an assault has sustained serious disfigurement, the loss of a limb or broken bones.

Grievous bodily harm is a very serious offence and is strictly indictable. It must be dealt with in the District or Supreme Court and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

The maximum penalty for grievous bodily harm is increased to 14 years imprisonment if the grievous bodily harm is committed during the theft of a car, while the victim was working in a particular job such as an ambulance officer, health care worker, or court officer, or where the offence occurs in circumstances of aggravation.

In particular circumstances concerning an aggravated home burglary where an offender commits grievous bodily harm, the Criminal Code provides for mandatory sentencing.

Serious Assault

Section 318 of the Criminal Code, makes it an offence to assault a public officer or police officer in their line of duty.

Indecent Assault

Section 323 of the Code, makes it an offence to indecently assault another person.

An indecent assault is an assault that is inherently indecent, even if it is not sexually motivated. An assault may be indecent because of the part of the body that is touched or attempted or threatened with touching or because of the part of the body used by the offender.

When a matter is heard in the District Court, the offence carries a maximum penalty of five (5) years imprisonment.

For cases heard summarily (in the Magistrates’ Court) the maximum penalty that may be imposed is two years imprisonment and a fine of $24,000.

Possible Defences to Assault Offences

A person charged with an assault offence may rely on a number of defences. For a court to find a person guilty of an assault the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused does not have a valid defence.

Provocation

Section 246 of the Code provides for the defence of provocation. The defence of provocation can be used in circumstances where an accused was provoked by the victim into committing the assault and the provocation resulted in a loss of self-control. For this defence to succeed, the assault must not be disproportionate to the provocation and must not have been likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm.

Self-defence

An offender may rely on the defence of self-defence if they believe that their actions were necessary in their self-defence or in the defence of another person. For this defence to succeed, the offender must have believed the assault was reasonably necessary in the circumstances as they perceived them and if the offender’s actions can be considered reasonable in the circumstances and there were reasonable grounds for that belief.

Duress

An assault charge can also be defended on the basis that the offender was acting under duress when they committed the offence.

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

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