Common Assault


Common assault is an offence pursuant to section 61 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) ‘Act’. This provision states whosoever assaults any person, although not occasioning actual bodily harm, shall be liable to imprisonment for two years. The maximum penalty for a conviction is therefore two years.[1] The case R v Burstow; R v Ireland [1998] 1 AC 147 has described the term common assault as “any act and not a mere omission to act by which a person intentionally or recklessly causes another to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence.[2] Thus, there does not need to be physical contact for assault to have occurred.


What are some examples of conduct amounting to assault?

Types of conduct:

  • Punching
  • Slapping
  • kicking
  • striking with an object


To be convicted, what do the police need to show?

In order to be convicted the police beyond reasonable doubt need to show that you fulfilled the elements of the common assault offence. The elements for this offence are:

  1. Assaulted a person
  2. Intentionally or recklessly
  3. No consent.[3]


What defences may I raise?

Possible defences to the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm can include:

  • Self defence
  • Necessity
  • Duress

The applicability of the defences varies from case to case. Contact a skilful lawyer at Walker Criminal Lawyer’s today to discuss your options.


What penalty might I receive if I am convicted of an assault occasioning actual bodily harm offence?

Depending upon the circumstances of the offence, the court has the discretion to determine which is the most appropriate to penalise you with.

  • Prison sentence
  • Home detention
  • Intensive corrections order
  • Community corrections order
  • Fine
  • Section 10A
  • Conditional release Order
  • Section 10.


[1] Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 61.

[2] R v Burstow; R v Ireland [1998] 1 AC 147.

[3] Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 61.

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* Information contained in this article is of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as concise legal advice.
Please contact us for legal advice tailored to your situation. *

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