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A Guide to Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm

Assault occasioning bodily harm is a common but serious criminal charge.

To deal with this kind of charge properly and ensure that you can get proper legal advice from a good criminal lawyer, this article is going to deal with:

  • What assault occasioning bodily harm is;
  • What kinds of alleged actions might be counted as assault occasioning bodily harm;
  • What the police need to prove to sustain the charge;
  • Available defences to assault occasioning bodily harm; and
  • Potential consequences and penalties.

What is Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm?

Assault occasioning bodily harm is where someone:

  • unlawfully assaults another person; and
  • causes an injury to that person; but
  • the injury isn’t sufficient to constitute “serious assault” or “grievous bodily harm”.

Below we explain each of these elements.

Unlawful Assault

Because there are some circumstances in which an assault might be considered “lawful” (e.g. – playing a rugby match often involves “lawful” forms of assault in tackles), the first requirement here is that the circumstances of the alleged assault are unlawful or excessive.

Causes an Injury

The definition of assault in Queensland is broad enough to capture conduct that does not cause injury to people. Because of this, for assault occasioning bodily harm, there needs to be an injury caused as a result of the unlawful assault.

Degree of Injury

Some kinds of assault attract higher penalties due to their nature or circumstances. Assault occasioning bodily harm is where the events do not warrant one of these higher charges of serious assault or grievous bodily harm.

Serious assault is an assault that takes place in particular defined circumstances (you may have heard it called “aggravated assault”). Examples include assaulting a police officer,a person over 60 or in company with another person.

Grievous bodily harm is a type of assault where the injury could result in loss of a body part, serious disfigurement, or if left untreated would cause or be likely to cause permanent injury or death.

Examples of Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm

You might be charged with assault occasioning bodily harm if you, for example:

  1. punch someone during a fight and break their nose;
  2. throw a brick at someone and cause bruising;
  3. cause redness, swelling, bruising or scratches;
  4. bend someone’s arm in such a way that it breaks.

What do the Police Need to Prove with this Kind of Charge?

The police are going to need the critical parts of assault occasioning bodily harm to sustain the charge.

That means they would need to show that you:

  1. applied force in any way to another person (including by striking or touching);
  2. you did so on purpose or without regard for the consequences;
  3. you had no lawful excuse to do it (including, in some circumstances that you did not have the person’s consent);
  4. that bodily harm was caused but not the more serious types we have discussed above.

What are the Defences to Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm?

Even if the police can establish the necessary facts, you still have options to defend the charge.

Some possible defences include:

  • self-defence;
  • that you were defending your property; or
  • that you were defending another person; or
  • that the incident was accidental and neither intentional nor reckless; or
  • that you were compelled or under duress to perform the act; or
  • you were acting in circumstances of an extraordinary emergency.

You should always discuss in full the circumstances of the incident with your criminal lawyer, to ensure that they can consider any defence you might have available.

What are the Penalties for Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm?

Assault occasioning bodily harm comes with a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment.

In some circumstances, you might receive an intensive corrections order – a type of imprisonment that you can serve in the community. As alternatives, you could also seek penalties in the form of fines or community service.

The penalties for this kind of assault depend heavily on the circumstances and, again, you should discuss them in detail with your criminal lawyer. In certain instances, your matter may be appropriate for Justice Mediation and at times we may be able to negotiate this for you. This will require the Complainant to agree to mediation and often involves some form of compensation along with mediation and an apology by you.

Have You Been Charged with Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm?

As a serious charge with potentially hefty penalties, you should always get a criminal lawyer who deals with assaults involved. If Police ask to interview you, simply ask for some time to consult a lawyer without declining an interview.

They can help you discuss the full details of the incident, determine whether the police can make out the charge and whether you might have any defences available. They can also discuss potential penalties in your circumstances based on their experience with assault charges.

If you have been charged, please reach out to talk with us before you speak with the police.