Assault Charges

Assault Lawyers Sydney: Charges & Offences Attorney

Being accused or charged with assault, even if it’s a first offence can be serious in Sydney, NSW.  It can be a difficult and stressful legal experience, as well as carry the possibility of getting a criminal record and being convicted.

This page contains some general information about assault offences and criminal law, including the maximum legal penalties that may apply if a criminal conviction is made. It’s important to educate yourself so read until the end to learn what your rights are. With one of the highest acquittal rates, you may wish to contact us for an appointment to discuss how assault lawyer Sydney (Ross Hill) can provide criminal legal defence for you in court.

Plea Options for assault charges: the law

 When faced with an assault charge in NSW you can either plead not guilty or guilty. Here is a brief summary of your legal options and what happens when you’re charged with an assault crime under the law.

Pleading not guilty

When a client pleads not guilty, the assault lawyers Sydney team will use expertise and experience to fight in court to get the alleged charges against you dismissed. This can be done in writing formally to the prosecution requesting the withdrawal for the following legal reasons:

  1. There is a valid defence, for example self-defence, duress, necessity or lawful correction (more on this below)
  2. An assault case cannot be proved against you because the necessary element is not high enough

To sufficiently prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you conducted an act of assault the following must be satisfied:

  1. “Actual bodily harm” in “assault occasioning actual bodily harm” cases
  2. “Recklessness” in “reckless wounding” or “Grievous Bodily Harm” with intent cases
  3. Intent in wound or “Grievous Bodily Harm” with intent cases
  4. A police officer was acting in the execution of duty in “assault police cases”

If the prosecution proceeds with the case against you it will be defended at a court hearing or jury trial, where assault lawyers will fight to prove your innocence in local court.

Pleading Guilty

If clients are pleading guilty, assault lawyers Sydney will fight in court to get you the best possible results and the shortest possible time served or a lesser sentence. In the criminal defence process we help clients by:

  • Persuade police to accept less serious charges (i.e. common rather than occasioning bodily harm)
  • Request the withdraw all charges except for apprehended violence orders
  • Request that certain parts of the police statement be deleted or amended in parts to better represent the full facts based on allegations. For example, the words “punched in head” can be changed to pushed

Max Penalties for Assault Offences

If you plead guilty to a charge the table illustrates the maximum penalty/fine under the law for each situation.

Type of AssaultCommon AssaultAssault Occasioning Actual Bodily HarmAssaulting of Police in Execution of Duty

Recklessly Causing Grievous Bodily Harm or wounding:


Grievous bodily harm with intent and wounding intentionally:
Maximum Imprisonment Sentence2 years5 years14 years10 years, if committed in company with another person up to 14 years25 years
Criminal RecordYesYesYesYesYes

Common Assault in NSW Definition

Common assault in NSW refers to the unauthorized touching of another person.  This includes actions of intimidation that cause fear of immediate and unlawful personal violence. Individuals are charged with an assault offence if an attack is made but an injury of “bodily harm” or “grievous bodily harm” did not happen to the victim.  This means that any common attack is sufficient.

Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm

The penalties for Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm are more serious than that of common assault.  This charging is applicable where actual bodily injury and severe physical violence has occurred. This could include punching, kicking, or striking of the victim.

Assault law enforcement in execution of duty

Police officers are to carry out and exercise the law in a fair and reasonable manner.  However, there are cases where excessive force has been used.  In the event of excessive force, you may have no choice but to resist or fight back.  This may lead to the shock of being charged with “assaulting a police officer”.  However, this can be defended in court, for example self-defense or duress can be argued on your behalf by your assault lawyers team.


Recklessly Causing Grievous Bodily Harm or wounding:

A charge of “recklessly causing grievous bodily harm or reckless wounding” means you have caused serious injuries to another person due to your reckless actions.  Grievous bodily harm includes any permanent, long-lasting, life-threatening or seriously disfiguring of another person.

Grievous bodily harm with intent and wounding with intent:

This is similar to reckless grievous bodily harm.  However, the main distinction is the injuries were inflicted with intent. This can also be called aggravated assault.

Defenses to Assault:

The main defences to assaults are:

  • Self-defence
  • Duress
  • Necessity, and
  • Lawful correction


Self-defence is a common defence to an assault charge. Generally speaking, a person is not responsible for their conduct that constitutes the offence if they carried it out in self-defence. There are 2 elements in order to use self-defence as a defence. Firstly, for self-defence to be applicable the conduct is required to be deemed necessary for as least one of the following reasons:

  1. Defending themselves or another person
  2. Preventing or terminating an unlawful deprivation of his or her liberty or of another person
  3. Protecting property from unlawful taking, destruction, damage or interference, or
  4. Preventing criminal trespass to any land or premises or to remove a person committing any such trespass

The second element required is that the conduct is a reasonable response to the circumstances present:

  1. There was a genuine belief that assault was necessary to defend themselves, another person or property
  2. The assault was a reasonable response to a perceived threat.

Refer to section 418 of the crimes act for more information on this law.


Duress occurs where a person is forced beyond their control to undertake an act that may cause death or serious harm.


A bank robber during a hold up may instruct the bank staff to strike or subdue a civilian.  If they do not do as they asked a staff member will be shot. The defence of duress may be used if the following elements are satisfied:

  1. There was a possibility that the assault was committed due to the threat of death or serious injury
  2. There was a possibility that an ordinary person would have committed the assault
  3. There were no other options or opportunities to avoid the threat otherwise.


Necessity can be used as a defence where the accused has to perform a specific act as a reaction to an emergency.  This act is carried out to prevent death or serious injury to themselves or others.


If we take the bank hold up scenario again.  A civilian trying to escape the scene may by accident bump into someone else and cause them some injury during the panic of trying to escape the situation. There are 3 elements in order to satisfy that the assault was based on necessity:

  1. Sudden or extraordinary circumstances did not exist, and
  2. The committed assault offence was the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency
  3. The conduct was a fair response to the emergency

Lawful Correction

Lawful correction is a defence to an assault of a child by its caregivers, such as parents or a student by a teacher. This defence can be used in cases where a child has been assaulted if:

  • The physical force applied by the parent or person acting for the parent of the child
  • The application of that physical force was reasonable. Regard is given to the age, health, maturity and other characteristics of the child and the nature of the alleged misbehavior any other relevant circumstances will be taken into consideration.


  • Disciplining a young child by smacking their bottom as punishment
  • Physically restraining a child
  • Pushing a child towards his/her room

All these examples are on the basis that excessive for has not been used. See section 60AA of the crimes act for more information on this law.


Ross Hill & Associate Solicitors is an experienced assault lawyer in Sydney NSW with many satisfied clients.  You should contact us to get the proper legal advice.  Our experienced criminal lawyers in Sydney will map our the best approach to defend your case in the local courts.