Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm
Under Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1900:
(1) Whosoever assaults any person, and thereby occasions actual bodily harm, shall be liable to imprisonment for five years.
(2) A person is guilty of an offence under this subsection if the person commits an offence under subsection (1) in the company of another person or persons. A person convicted of an offence under this subsection is liable to imprisonment for 7 years.
The offence of Assault Occasioning actual bodily harm (AOABH) is a more serious offence than Common Assault. It attracts a penalty of 5 years imprisonment or 7 years imprisonment if the assault is committed in company, meaning in the presence of someone else or others.
Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm is not explicitly defined in Section 59 of the Crimes Act. However, it tends to be applied in cases of assault where the victim has received an injury to their body and/or a serious psychological injury. The injuries to the body covered under Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm do not have to be permanently debilitating; they can include scratches, bruises, and lacerations.
A NSW Court of Criminal Appeal case McIntyre V R (2009) NSWCCA 305 summarises ‘actual bodily harm’ as “…something less than “grievous bodily harm”, which requires really serious physical injury, and “wounding”, which requires breaking of the skin… The distinction between grievous bodily harm and actual bodily harm involves an assessment of the degree of harm done, with one being more serious than the other…Bruises and scratches to a victim are typical examples of injuries that are capable of amounting to actual bodily harm… If a victim has been injured psychologically in a very serious way, going beyond merely transient emotions, feelings and states of mind, that would likely amount to actual bodily harm”.
While Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm is a more serious offence than Common Assault it is less serious than Assault Occasioning Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH).
In an Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm case, the police must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were responsible for the assault. They must also prove that the assault directly caused actual bodily harm to the victim. This means that a visible injury needs to be present to show that bodily harm occurred, such as a bruise, or scratch. It is not necessary for the prosecution to show that there was specific intent to cause actual bodily harm. It is sufficient for the prosecution to show that the assault was committed with recklessness and/or indifference.
Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm cases are normally heard in a local court. However if the prosecution decides to they can elect to have the matter dealt with in the District Court. If this course of action is taken the maximum prison penalty is increased.
There are defences available to an Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm charge, depending on the specific circumstances of your case. Defences can include self-defence, duress, necessity, or consent.
Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm is subject to heavy penalties such as imprisonment and hefty fines. Penalties include:
- Home detention
- ICO (Intensive Correction Order)
- Suspended sentence
- Good behaviour
- Section 10 – no conviction recorded
Seeking expert legal advice immediately may help you avoid a conviction for an alleged Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm. We look very closely at the prosecution case against you to reveal any weaknesses it may have and we can advise you on all the possible viable defences which may be available to you. We vigorously assert your rights in all situations. Talk to us before you talk to the police. Call William Vahl, Accredited Criminal Law Specialist on (02) 9955 2298 during office hours or 0400 4464 24 (at any time 24/7).