Assault and Violence Related Offences
Assault and other violence-related charges are increasingly common in WA criminal courts. Successive State governments have made it very clear that they will empower the WA Police to take a hard-line approach when dealing with all forms of violence.
Accordingly, if you have been charged with this type of offence, it is vital that you obtain legal advice to ensure you have a good understanding of the charges and the possible defences available.
There are several different ‘levels’ of violence-related offences. The most common charges are:
At the lowest end of the spectrum is the charge known as ‘common assault’.
This is ordinarily understood to include the actual or threatened application of force, of any kind, without the consent of another person.
In practical terms, this includes a punch, slap, push or kick. It can also, however, include the case of applying things such fluids, heat, light or odour. It is possible, therefore, to be charged for splashing water on someone, or spitting.
You can’t be found guilty of an accidental application of force, unless it was ‘reckless’. For example, you won’t be charged for inadvertently bumping into someone in a crowded bus, or on the street, unless it was apparent that you were behaving recklessly.
A common assault charge is usually dealt with in the Magistrates Court.
If the offence was committed in ‘circumstances of aggravation’ or ‘racial aggravation’, the maximum penalty is a term of immediate imprisonment of 3 years and a fine of $36,000.
A circumstance of aggravation or racial aggravation can be any one of the following:
- the accused and the complainant are in a ‘domestic’ relationship (married/de facto partners), or is a family member;
- if a child was present;
- the accused is subject to a violence restraining order for the benefit of the complainant;
- the complainant is over 60 years old; or
- Where the circumstances of the offence are racially motivated.
If one of the above factors is not present, the maximum penalty is a period of imprisonment of 18 months and a fine of $18,000.
Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm
As the wording suggests, this is a more serious version of an assault, which results in ‘bodily harm’.
Bodily harm is usually anything beyond a temporary mark, and includes a scratch, bruise or graze.
Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm can be dealt with either in the Magistrates Court, or in the District Court.
If the offence was committed in ‘circumstances of aggravation’ or ‘racial aggravation’ and is dealt with in the District Court, the maximum penalty is a term of immediate imprisonment of 7 years. If there are no circumstances of aggravation, then the maximum penalty is a period of 5 years.
If the offence is dealt with the in Magistrates Court and there are circumstances of aggravation, the maximum penalty is a term of immediate imprisonment of 3 years and a fine of $36,000. If there are no circumstances of aggravation, the maximum penalty is a period of imprisonment of 2 years and a fine of $24,000.
When you have been charged with ‘Unlawful Wounding’, it means that you have alleged to have broken and damaged at least the first two layers of the complainant’s skin.
This is the common charge when someone is alleged to have ‘glassed’ or stabbed a complainant.
Unlawful Wounding can be dealt with either in the Magistrates Court, or in the District Court.
The maximum penalties are the same as the penalties for Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm.
These types of assaults include the charge of assaulting a Police Officer, an emergency services worker, or a health worker (such a nurse), in the performance of his or her duties.
These are regarded as serious offences and if the complainant suffers from bodily harm, the Court must impose a mandatory term of immediate imprisonment of at least 6 or 9 months, depending on the circumstances.
Serious Assault can be dealt with either in the Magistrates Court, or in the District Court.
If sentenced in the District Court, the maximum penalty is a term of immediate imprisonment of 7 years. If sentenced in the Magistrates Court, the maximum penalty is a term of immediate imprisonment of 3 years and a fine of $36,000.
Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)
This is regarded as the most serious of the violence-related offences and can only be dealt with in the District Court.
GBH is when the complainant suffers a bodily injury which either endangers or is likely to endanger life, or causes or is likely to cause, permanent injury to health.
In real terms, this can include any permanent damage to a body part (such as damaged vision or the loss of the use of a finger) or a life-threatening injury (such as a severed artery). It is irrelevant whether medical treatment prevents the injury from being permanent or life threatening.
The maximum penalty, in circumstances of aggravation, or other circumstances, which include an offence against a public officer, is a term of immediate imprisonment of 14 years.
Given the seriousness of this charge, it is often very difficult to avoid a term of immediate imprisonment.
What Defences Can Be Raised
Violent offences have a number of available defences, some of which are listed below.
- Self Defence;
- Emergency; or
- Preventing violence from occurring.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that not all of these defences are available to all offences and you should seek the advice of an experienced practitioner to confirm which defences can be used in your case.
Violence-related offences carry extremely significant penalties and always require the use of a competent lawyer to advise and represent you, even if you want to plead guilty straight away.
Chelmsford Legal has considerable experience in dealing with all of the above offences, and we can appear in Court for you on your plea of guilty, or if you want to take the matter to trial, or we can try to have your charges downgraded or discontinued, depending on the circumstances.
We look forward to helping you.