Assaults and Violent Crime
Assault, sexual assault and stalking
Along with murder and manslaughter, assault crimes are considered very serious crimes against individuals, and bear significant penalties.
They are broken into different types of crimes based on the seriousness and nature of the harm, and the alleged intentions of the accused.
No matter what category it falls into, assault involves some kind of harm to another person. It might be physical harm, or mental harm.
People can consent to some forms of assault (for example, a standard tackle in a football game or brushing up against people as you walk down a busy street), but not others (a football player does not consent to being cut with a knife on the field).
Any type of force to another person – striking, touching, moving – might be assault. Importantly, you can “assault” someone without actually touching them, as threatening to touch someone can still be classed as assault.
The sub-categories of assault below offer more details.
Common assault is the most common assault charge for less serious allegations.
If, for example, you have a shoving match with someone in the line for a taxi because they cut in front of you, that might be a case of common assault (even if nobody was hurt).
The maximum penalty for common assault is 3 years in prison.
Assault causing bodily harm
If your shoving match in the taxi line (mentioned above) got a bit more serious and you punched the person in the face causing them to get a cut requiring stitches – that might be a more serious charge of assault causing bodily harm.
Bodily harm is where a person suffers injuries which interfere with their health or comfort. So if your taxi-rank scuffle sends someone to hospital then there’s a chance of this more serious charge.
The normal maximum sentence is 7 years in prison. This could increase to 10 years in some circumstances, such as when you have (or pretend to have) a weapon or there is more than one alleged attacker.
Unlawful wounding and grievous bodily harm
Wounding is where the alleged assault breaks or penetrates the skin. For example, a knife cut or broken glass assault might be a form of wounding.
If the assault is particularly serious, then a person might be charged with grievous bodily harm. This means the person attacked has lost a distinct part of an order, suffered from serious disfigurement or received an injury that would endanger their life or cause permanent injury if it was left untreated.
Wounding carries a maximum sentence of 7 years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for grievous bodily harm is 14 years.