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What Does Assault Mean and What Are Its Three Elements?

elements of assault | Justice Family Lawyers

The cause of physical contact with or harm to another person without their consent or the cause of apprehension or fear of such injury.

It is important to note that assault can be both a physical act (touching, striking, etc.) and an act that causes fear of imminent bodily harm, even without physical contact.

3 Elements of Assault

For the accused to be convicted of assault, the following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Intention: The accused must have intentionally caused fear of harm or physical contact. Accidental actions do not constitute an assault.
  2. Apprehension or Physical Contact: Assault may involve bodily contact (frequently referred to as ‘battery’) or anticipating imminent harm or offensive contact, even if no physical contact occurs.
  3. Absence of Consent: The action must be non-consensual. If the victim consented to the act, it does not amount to an assault. However, there are limitations to this principle depending on the circumstances.

Also read: How Long Does an Assault Investigation Take in Australia

Types of Assault

Now that you know what are the 3 elements of assault and their definition, it’s about time to dig into their five (5) types.

In Australia, there are several types of assault recognised under different state and territory laws.

While specifics can vary between jurisdictions, generally, three common types of assault include:

  • Common Assault: This is typically defined as the intentional or reckless infliction of physical contact, harm, or the fear of imminent harm to another person without their consent. It does not require a physical injury.
  • Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ABH): This type of assault involves physical harm that interferes with the victim’s health or comfort but is not severe enough to be classified as grievous bodily harm
  • Aggravated Assault: An assault is considered “aggravated” when additional aggravating factors are present. The use of a weapon, the presence of multiple offenders, assault in the presence of a child, or assault on a vulnerable person, such as a person with a disability or an elderly person, are examples of aggravating circumstances.
  • Sexual Assault: This includes sexual activity without consent, such as rape and molestation. Consent must be given voluntarily, and a person who is unconscious, intoxicated, or otherwise incapable of giving consent cannot do so.
  • Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH): This is a severe type of assault that results in significant and severe injury. In some jurisdictions, GBH includes wounding or causing permanent disfigurement.

Note that to reach a conviction, the prosecution must be able to establish the 3 elements of assault in the case. 

Also read: 6 Factors Behind Dropped Common Assault Charges

Two Types of Pleas for Assault Charges

Establishing what are the 3 elements of assault in a specific case is one thing; the other important factor considered by the court is the defendant’s plea. 

When a person is charged with assault, they generally have two main pleas they can enter in court:

  • Guilty Plea: The defendant admits guilt by pleading guilty and accepts responsibility for the offence. A guilty plea frequently expedites the resolution of a case by obviating the need for a trial. In Australia, courts can offer a sentencing discount, or a reduced sentence, to those who plead guilty, particularly if the plea is entered at an early stage.
  • Not Guilty Plea: The defendant asserts their innocence by entering a not-guilty plea, and the case will typically proceed to trial. During the trial, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. The accused must be acquitted or found not guilty if reasonable suspicion exists. 

Also read: Bail for Assault Charge in Australia You Should Know

Assault Charges In Criminal Record

Generally speaking, if you have been convicted of assault in Australia, it will appear on your criminal record.

A criminal record includes information about a person’s criminal history, such as convictions, sentences, and possibly charges that did not result in a conviction.

In certain circumstances, however, the charge may not appear or be removed after a certain period.

Some Australian jurisdictions, for instance, have “spent conviction” schemes. Under these schemes, if the individual has not committed another offence after a certain period (often 10 years for adults), the conviction is considered “spent”. It will not appear on the majority of criminal background checks.

Noting that there are exceptions to this rule is essential. Certain offences may never be spent, and certain types of employment (such as roles working with children or in law enforcement) may require a more thorough background check that could reveal spent convictions.

What Are The Elements Of Assault?

Speak to our experienced AVO team at Justice Family Lawyers. We can explain these complex legal concepts in simple terms and offer expert advice tailored to your situation. Click here to get in touch now. Don’t be in the dark about ‘What are the 3 elements of assault?‘ Knowledge is power, and we’re here to empower you.

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