What is Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm?

The charge of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm means somebody has been hurt as the result of an assault and that the injury will not heal quickly. The physical injury must be more than merely transient or trifling The harm might be a bruise or a black eye or a cut or scratch. It can also be serious psychological harm.
If the matter is heard in the Local Court, the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment and/or a $5500 fine. If you commit the offence in the company of another person or persons, it is an aggravating factor and the penalties will be harsher if you are convicted.

What The Prosecution Must Prove

To be convicted of the charge of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm, the prosecution must prove five things beyond reasonable doubt.
1) That you acted in a way that caused another person to fear immediate and unlawful personal violence OR that you touched another person without their consent.
2) That the other person did not give you permission to conduct yourself the way you did
3) That you acted intentionally or recklessly.
The prosecution must prove that you knew that your actions would cause the other person to fear immediate violence and that you intended this to be the case.
Or, the prosecution has to prove that you realised that your actions may have resulted in some form of physical contact, however slight, and you were reckless as to this outcome.
4) That you did not have a lawful excuse for your actions.
Injury occurring during the course of an organised sports match would not normally lead to an assault charge.
5) That you caused a physical injury that is more than merely transient or trifling. Injuries that heal quickly do not normally result in this charge. If psychological injury is alleged, it must be a condition that goes beyond transient emotions, feeling and states of mind.

Penalties for Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm

Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm is an offence under Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1900 which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison or 7 years if it is committed in the company of another person. If heard in the Local Court, the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment, and/or a $5,500 fine.

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You will be found not guilty of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm, if your defence is accepted in court. The best defence is to prove that the accused did not know that their conduct was likely to cause fear of physical or mental harm to the other person.

Available defences are:

Self defence

This can be raised if:

  1.  You were acting to protect yourself, somebody else, or your property.
  2.  You honestly believed you were acting reasonably in taking the action you did. Even if you were mistaken in your belief, you can still rely on this defence as long as you honestly and reasonably believed that you had to act in self defence.

There are some qualifiers. Your actions have to have been proportionate to the threat. If you were drunk or using drugs and your level of intoxication caused you to misinterpret the threat, you may not be able to rely on this defence.


This defence can be raised where somebody forced you to commit the crime against your will. You have to show evidence:

  1. That an actual threat was made and that the threat was ongoing. Text messages, phone conversations, or testimony in court can all be used. It is irrelevant whether the threat could be carried out. You just have to have genuinely believed in the threat.
  2. That the threat was so menacing (death/serious injury) that it would have deprived any person of your age and gender of their free will and left no option but for you engage in the unlawful conduct.


This defence can be difficult to prove and is rarely used. The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt (more than 50% likelihood) that there was no immediate danger to you.

No threat has to be present but there must have been some reason that left you no option but to assault somebody. For example, you were being restrained by somebody who was unaware there was fire in the building you were trying to exit and you had to assault them to break free and make your way to safety.

You will need evidence to show:

  1. You acted to avoid death or serious injury or other serious, irreversible consequences to you or somebody else.
  2. You honestly and reasonably believed the threat or situation existed.
  3. You acted in a manner that was proportionate and reasonable in the circumstances.

Lawful correction

Crimes Act 1900 Section 61AA provides the defence of lawful correction by way of punishment to somebody under the age of 18 only if:

1(a) the physical force was applied by the parent of the child or by a person action for the parent of the child, and

1(b) the application of that physical force was reasonable having regard to the age, health, maturity or other characteristics of the child, the nature of the alleged misbehaviour or other circumstances.

2 Unless the force applied is negligible, it is not reasonable if the force is applied to the child’s head or neck or to any part of the body where any harm caused lasts for more than a short period.