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COMMON ASSAULT: The Law in Queensland

The charge of assault under common law and the criminal codes of various jurisdictions can be quite a serious one. Assault is considered an offence against a person, which means that it stands to directly harm another individual. One of the most common complaints I have heard clients have is why they were arrested and charged with a criminal offence after what was a minor scuffle at a bar after a few cheeky pints with mates.

It is quite simple.

All one needs is a computer with internet capabilities and within seconds you are redirected to section 245 of the Criminal Code Act of Queensland. This section defines assault as when a person “strikes, touches, moves or otherwise applies force of ANY kind..” This force may be applied either directly or indirectly, and without their consent.

What most people don’t realize is that the application of force is not a necessary element of this offence. This Criminal Code definition extends to words and even gestures. It is necessary however, that the gesture caused someone to believe that the use of force was inevitable.

To put this in lay man’s terms, something as trivial as a verbal threat to kick someone’s butt or a push, can amount to a criminal assault under Queensland legislation.

Fun Fact: Spitting on someone else may amount to assault and a date with the Magistrates Court

Our sister country of Canada has similar legislation in effect. The Criminal Code of Canada in section 265 lays out assault to be the intentional application of any force, on a person without their consent. As you can see, the similarity in how this offence is defined in multiple jurisdictions emphasizes the seriousness of this offence.

On the less serious spectrum of offences, Common Assault is the most common charge that clients are usually charged with. This usually is the true even when no injury occurred. Remember that for the purposes of assault, the application of force may include “applying heat, light, electrical force, gas, odour, or any other substance or thing whatever if applied in such a degree as to cause injury or personal discomfort”. As you can see, this is a pretty broad definition and can encompass a variety of things.

In the state of Queensland, the charge of common assault can see you receive a maximum term of imprisonment for 3 years. However, maximum terms are usually reserved for the “absolute worst” of situations, and the Court has its disposal, other punishments such as Probation or Intensive Corrections Orders (ICO’s).

That being said, the Court looks at circumstances of aggravation and mitigation in deciding its sentence. The fact that an offender was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the assault took place can be considered an aggravating circumstance, and will reflect poorly when it comes to sentencing.

Common Assault is a misdemeanor under Queensland law and will see you facing your fate in the Magistrate’s Court.


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