In Victoria, assault charges are outlined in the Crimes Act 1958 and Summary Offences Act 1966. Depending on the nature, intention and severity of the assault committed, it will be allocated a category that will determine the punishment that follows. In Victoria there are several degrees of assault that a person can be charged with. We explain these types of assault below.
Described in Section 23 of the Summary Offences Act, a common assault charge is the least severe of assault charges under Victorian law. In the act, common assault is attributed to “Any person who unlawfully assaults or beats another person shall be guilty of an offence.”
What makes common assault distinct from other assault charges is the lack of intent of the offender to seriously harm or disfigure the victim. Minor scuffles, pushing and shoving, throwing of objects or verbal threats might fall under common assault – depending on the impact upon the victim.
Aggravated assault cases are considered more serious than common assault. An aggravated assault case fits the same definition as common assault. However, it must also feature either an assault against a woman, a child under the age of 14, multiple people, kicking or the use of weapons.
If the assault meets these criteria, and the offender is found guilty, they could face up to two years imprisonment. The severity of the act of assault can be determined by how the assault was committed (with weapons or with multiple people) and the harm inflicted upon the victim (temporary or permanent injury). Depending on the injuries, an aggravated assault charge may be escalated to intentionally or recklessly causing injury.
Intentionally or Recklessly Causing Injury
Determining the severity of an assault charge can greatly depend on the intention of the offender, or their lack of care for the possible consequences of their actions (reckless), or a failure to realise what the outcome of their action could be (negligent).
The maximum penalty for intentionally causing serious injury is 20 years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for recklessly causing serious injury is 15 years imprisonment.
Dealing with intent and negligence in a criminal case can be complex as the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the presence of intent or lack of consideration within the offender.
Other Assault Charges
There are several offences acknowledged under Victorian law that do not exactly fit into the above categories. These include (but are not limited to):
- threats to kill or harm
- assaults that result in permanent and/or life-threatening injury
- assaults against public service workers such as police officers and emergency responders
- aggravated burglary
- assaults that are sexual in nature
The consequences of such charges can vary and depend greatly on the prosecution’s ability to prove guilt and other elements of the case.
Each form of assault is included under the Crimes Act 1958 or Summary Offences Act 1966 and comes with a maximum penalty. It is possible for an individual to be charged with multiple types of assault in relation to one incident.
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