In Australia, there are various assault types listed under the Criminal Code Act 1899. The lowest category of assault is common assault. Across all states, including Queensland, this form of assault is still punishable by way of a prison sentence. Whether you are guilty of the offence, or you have been wrongly accused of common assault, it’s important to understand your rights and how you can fight to decrease your sentence.
What is Common Assault in Queensland?
Section 245 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 describes assault as either striking, touching, moving or applying force of any kind to another person, either intentionally or recklessly without that person’s consent. It becomes common assault if the person assaulted has only minor injuries or no injuries at all.
Situations that could be considered as common assault in Queensland include:
- Hitting, kicking or punching another person without causing bodily harm (i.e. bruising, black eye etc)
- Spitting on another person constitutes assault, especially if there is a possibility of the transfer of an infection
- Threats of violence
Common assault in Queensland is usually dealt with in the Magistrates Court.
Under Section 335 of the Criminal Code Act 1899, common assault carries a maximum penalty of 3 years in prison if found guilty.
Should a circumstance of aggravation apply to this offence (the offender commits the offence in a public place while affected by an intoxicating substance), a community service order must be made.
A community service order (CSO) requires a person to perform unpaid work (usually at a community facility) for a certain number of hours usually between 40 and 240 hours.
What Must the Police Prove?
In order to prove that a common assault offence has been committed in Queensland, the Police must prove their case to the Court beyond reasonable doubt that:
- The accused applied some form of force to the victim
- The applied force was executed without the victim’s consent
- The force was done intentionally or recklessly
- The assault was not justified or excused by the law
If the Police cannot prove that the offender assaulted the victim, then they will be found not guilty.
There are several possible defences that could be used if charged with common assault.
Section 268 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 defines provocation as any act or insult, laid against a reasonable person, likely to induce an aggressive response. This defence is only applicable if the person charged with assault is found to have lost control of their actions and responded immediately, and the force used is not disproportionate to the incident which provoked them.
Section 271 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 states that it is legal for a person to use appropriate force if they were defending themselves against an unprovoked assault. The force, however, must not have been intended, likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm.
Section 272 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 does make it legal for a person charged with common assault to use reasonable force in order to protect themselves against a provoked assault. This defence is not available when the person who first provokes an assault does so with the intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. It is also not a defence if the person uses force to cause death or bodily harm before it is necessary to do so.
In Queensland, section 12 of the Penalties and Sentencing Act states that an early plea of guilty should be taken into account when imposing a sentence. Pleading guilty may reduce the sentence quite significantly. When the Court imposes the sentence, they must state that they took account of the guilty plea. It’s important to seek urgent legal advice to discuss your best chances of reducing your sentence with a plea of guilty.
Speak to a Legal Professional Regarding Your Common Assault Case in Queensland
Whether common assault resulted from provocation or you would like to know your options regarding a sentence reduction, our team of criminal lawyers can help you with your common assault case in Queensland. Please get in touch to arrange a consultation as soon as possible to see how we can assist.