Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm

What is assault occasioning actual bodily harm?

The offence of Assault occasioning actual bodily harm is found at section 59 of the Crimes Act 1900.

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm is the charge that police will normally lay where there has been an assault and some injury has occurred. Bruises and scratches are typical examples of actual bodily harm.

When a person is charged with Assault occasioning actual bodily harm, our solicitors are often able to beat the charge by raising defences such as self-defence (were you threatened and was your response reasonable?) or denials of responsibility for the assault. On other occasions, we can negotiate with the police to lay a lesser charge or change the facts to ensure a more lenient penalty is received.

If you are charged with the offence of Assault occasioning actual bodily harm, your options will normally be to plead guilty or not guilty.

Pleading not guilty

You will be found not guilty of the offence of Assault occasioning actual bodily harm if the police cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. You assaulted the victim (an assault is the intentional or reckless application of force to the person of another); and
  2. As a consequence of that assault, the victim suffered actual bodily harm (the injury need not be permanent but must be more than merely transient and trifling. Bruising and cuts have been held to be actual bodily harm).

Recklessness in terms of assault is established where the accused foresees the likelihood of inflicting injury or fear, and ignores the risk.

The act of an assault must be a hostile one. It must be made in “an angry, revengeful, rude, insolent or hostile manner” and it is not necessarily a battery to make contact with another for some purpose in which the person being touched has or could have an interest or benefit of his own, if none of the other features of battery are present.

Physical contact which is an inevitable part of the exigencies of everyday life does not amount to an assault either because of implied consent or because there is an exception to assault embracing all physical contact which is generally acceptable as part in the conduct of daily life.

If the police are able to prove the above elements beyond reasonable doubt, you will still be found not guilty if any of the following defences can be established:

Contact our criminal law offices in Sydney, Parramatta, Blacktown or Redfern to organise a time for one of our criminal lawyers to advise you of your prospects of successfully defending the charge of Assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Pleading guilty

If you agree that you have committed the offence (and the police are able to prove so), it is best to plead guilty as you will normally receive a discount on sentence and it will demonstrate remorse and contrition. Alternatively, it may be the case that one of our experienced solicitors can negotiate with prosecutors for you to plead guilty to less serious facts or even a less serious charge.

In sentencing for Assault occasioning actual bodily harm a court will look at the degree of violence involved as well as the seriousness of the injury in determining the objective seriousness of the assault.

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment in the District Court or 2 years imprisonment if the offence is dealt with in the Local Court. If the offence is committed in company, then the maximum penalty is 7 years imprisonment in the District Court. However, these maximum penalties are typically reserved for the worst offenders. Our solicitors have a proven track record of not only keeping our clients out of gaol but also, depending on the seriousness of the allegation, having the offence dealt with by way of section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act, meaning no conviction will be recorded, there is no other penalty and you will have no criminal record. To find out more about a section 10, click here.

Penalties that a court can impose in NSW are:

Case Study

We represented a person charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm against his girlfriend. The girlfriend failed to report the allegation to the police for more than 24 hours. Mr Correy called alibi evidence from the father of the Accused who said his son had been at home with him at the time of the alleged assault and pointed out the injury could have occurred any time in the 24 hours that passed since the Accused and girlfriend were together. The Magistrate found the Accused not guilty and the charges were dismissed.

Case Study 2

We appeared for an Accused man who the police were alleging had committed an unprovoked and violent attack on his father-in-law that hospitalized him for 5 days. The Accused man denied the allegation and said that the father-in-law had attacked his heavily pregnant wife.  The wife gave a statement to the police which supported the Accused man’s version of events. We subpoenaed a Triple 0 call made by his wife and obtained photos of her and his injuries. The father-in-law was cross-examined over 2 days and the Accused man claimed he was acting in defence of  his wife. The court accepted the Accused man was a person of good character who was unlikely to lie or commit such a violent attack. The Magistrate found the father-in-law was an unreliable witness. The Accused man was found not guilty on the basis of self-defence.

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