Assault Offences

Assault

Assault is an offence under Section 20 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA).

Assault occurs if there is any intentional and unwanted physical force used against a victim. The assault can be direct or indirect – it is assault to punch someone and it is also assault to drop a child they were carrying.

Assault also occurs if there is any intentional and unwanted direct or indirect contact with another person, however slight that contact may be, if the person committing the assault knew that the victim might reasonably object to that contact. For example, throwing a newspaper at someone can be assault if you knew the person might object to that.

It is also assault if a threat is made to apply force and the victim reasonably believes that the person can carry out the threat or there is a real possibility that they will. For example, pointing a gun at someone.

Assault can also occur when a person accosts (approaches and confronts aggressively) or impedes (blocks the way of) another in a threatening manner.

A distinction is made for behaviour that falls within the limits of what would be accepted as normal social interaction or community interaction. An example may be pushing between people to get out of a crowded bus.

Maximum Penalty

  • Basic offence: two years imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence: three years imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence by use of, or threatened use of, an offence weapon: four years imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence where the victim is a police officer, prison officer, employee in a training centre, community corrections officer, youth justice officer or other law enforcement officer acting in the course of their official duties and the offender knows this when assaulting them: five years imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence where the victim is engaged in a prescribed occupation or employment, such as hospital and emergency service workers, acting in the course of their official duties and the offender knows this when assaulting them: five years imprisonment

 

Assault Causing Harm

An assault causing harm occurs when injuries are sustained such as bruises or broken bones. There are higher penalties for this type of offence:

  • Basic offence: three years imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence: four years imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence by use of, or threatened use of, an offence weapon: five years imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence where the victim is a police officer, prison officer, employee in a training centre, community corrections officer, youth justice officer or other law enforcement officer acting in the course of their official duties and the offender knows this when assaulting them: seven years imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence where the victim is engaged in a prescribed occupation or employment (whether on a paid or volunteer basis), such as hospital or emergency services workers, acting in the course of their official duties and the offender knows this when assaulting them: seven years imprisonment

 

Causing Harm

Another form of assault is the offence of causing harm. This offence is similar to assault causing harm, however the penalties are more severe.

To be guilty of causing harm, you must cause harm to another either intending to cause injury or being reckless as to whether you do so.

Harm can be either physical or mental, and includes pain, disfigurement, unconsciousness and infection with a disease. Mental harm includes psychological harm but not emotional reactions such as distress, grief, fear or anger, unless they develop into psychological harm.

 

Maximum penalty

Causing harm with intent to cause harm:

  • Basic offence: 10 years imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence: 13 years imprisonment

Recklessly Causing harm:

  • Basic offence: five years imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence: seven years imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence where the victim is a police officer, prison officer, employee in a training centre, community corrections officer, youth justice officer or other law enforcement officer acting in the course of their official duties and the offender knows this when assaulting them: eight years imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence where the victim is engaged in a prescribed occupation or employment (whether on a paid or volunteer basis), such as hospital or emergency service workers, acting in the course of their official duties and the offender knows this when assaulting them: eight years imprisonment

 

Causing Serious Harm

Serious harm is an offence that includes harm that endangers or is likely to endanger a person’s life, results in serious and protracted impairment of a physical or mental function, or harm that results in serious disfigurement.

 

Maximum Penalty

Causing harm with intent to cause harm:

  • Basic offence – 20 years imprisonment.

  • Aggravated offence – 25 years imprisonment.

Recklessly Causing harm:

  • Basic offence – 15 years imprisonment.

  • Aggravated offence – 19 years imprisonment.

Whether a person is charged with common assault or some more aggravated form of assault will be decided by the police. The crucial questions will be the degree of injury to the victim, whether the victim is a vulnerable person and whether a weapon was used.

 

There are potential defences to assault offences. Please contact us for more information.