Common Assault

If you have been charged with common assault, here is some information to know and consider in seeking legal advice with Emma Turnbull Lawyers.

Elements of the offence

For the prosecution to prove the offence of common assault, they must prove that one of the two types of common assault was committed. Common assault can be dealt with at common law, or under s 23 of the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic).

At common law, common assault is defined as:

  1. Making unlawful contact with another person or threatening to do so

Under s 23 of the Summary Offences Act it is:

  1. The accused unlawfully assaulted or beat another person; and
  2. The accused had no lawful justification or defence.

Will I have to go to court?

Charges for common assault are most often dealt with summarily in the Magistrates’ Court. However, depending on the circumstances of the offence and any other charges laid, the case may be heard in a higher court; expert legal advice is important in ensuring the most appropriate defence to a charge of common assault.

Once the case goes to court, it is up to the prosecution to prove either of the categories of the offence. It is important that you seek expert legal advice in building a defence as the circumstances surrounding the events that led to the charge can assist in a strong defence argument.

Maximum penalty:

At common law, the maximum penalty this offence carries is 5 years imprisonment. Under the Summary Offences Act, the maximum penalty is three months imprisonment. Both types of assault will likely be heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

What sentences are usually given?

Despite the different maximum sentences available for the different categories of common assault, the sentencing trends are similar for each type of charge.

Between 1 July 2011 and 30 June 2016, under the Summary Offences Act, 61% of people charged with common assault received a sentence of imprisonment. At Common Law 58.4% of people received a term of imprisonment, with 2.6% receiving the maximum penalty of 5 years.

As the maximum penalty varies between the two types of Common Assault it is necessary to seek expert legal advice to ensure you understand the nature of the charge and how best to prepare a defence to it.

What do I do now?

To ensure the best chance of a successful defence, it is important to get in contact with an expert criminal lawyer as soon as possible. At Emma Turnbull Lawyers, we have experienced criminal defence lawyers who can assist you in defending this charge.