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Did you know that assault charges can have severe consequences on both your personal and professional life?

Navigating Assault Laws in NSW: A Comprehensive Definition

Assault charges can have severe consequences on both your personal and professional life. If you are facing the prospect of or have been charged with an assault related law offence in New South Wales (NSW), you need to understand the complexities of how this law operates and how you will need to navigate through it ensuring the best possible result.

This blog will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of assault under NSW law and explore possible defences to defend police charges. Repute Law has the experience, knowledge and capability to understand our client’s needs ensuring they are represented in the best possible way.

NSW Assault Laws

Assault, as defined under NSW law, encompasses a broad range of behaviours that cause another person to fear immediate and unlawful violence. It is essential to understand the key elements of assault to navigate the legal landscape effectively.

Under Section 61 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), assault is divided into two categories: common assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH). Common assault refers to acts that cause a person to fear immediate and unlawful violence, injury or force. It doesn’t always involve any immediate physical harm.

ABH has its own section within the legislation and is dealt with under s59 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). It involves an assault that results in physical harm or injury to the victim.

Additionally, the courts will take into consideration any type of mental illness that may be caused by the assault as well. Note that ABH carries more severe penalties if heard in the District Court due to the nature of the offence and the physical harm caused.

The act goes on further to state that grievous bodily harm is also an assault punishable by law. S33-54 define the different types of GBH as:

A person who: (a) wounds any person), or (b) causes grievous bodily harm to any person, with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to that or any other person.


When facing any of these assault charges, it is important to consider all available defences available to you. Repute Law can assist you in identifying the most suitable defence for your case, depending on the circumstances. Common defences to assault charges include self-defence, consent and honest and reasonable mistake.

Self-defence is a commonly used defence in assault cases. It may be a valid defence if you can demonstrate that you believed you were under immediate threat of harm and used reasonable force to protect yourself or others. However, you must establish that your actions were proportionate to the threat you faced.

Consent is another defence that can be used in assault cases, particularly in situations where the alleged victim willingly participated in an activity that resulted in harm. However, consent as a defence has certain limitations, and its applicability depends on the circumstances and the nature of the assault.

An honest and reasonable mistake defence may be applicable in situations where you genuinely believed you had consent or that your actions were lawful. This defence requires showing that a reasonable person in your position would have made the same mistake.

Courts have established that for an assault charge, the accused’s actions must cause harm or for the victim to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence. They emphasise that apprehension of violence must be genuine and objectively reasonable in the circumstances.


Each type of assault carries its own penalties including:

  1. Common Assault – a maximum of 2 years imprisonment and or a fine of up to $5500.
  2. Assault occasioning actual bodily harm – if heard in a local court the penalties are like common assault however, if heard in the District Court the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment.
  3. Grevious bodily harm – in more cases than not the court will punish the accused by sending them to prison. If found guilty of intentionally causing GBH, the most serious of cases will be faced up to 25 years imprisonment.

When handing down a penalty the court considers the facts of the case, the evidence provided by all parties, whether the accused has a criminal record and the likelihood of reoffending. Other penalties that could be handed down include:

  • Good behaviour orders
  • Community service
  • Community corrections orders and in some circumstances for minor assault charges:
  • S10 non conviction order


Navigating assault laws in NSW can be daunting, but with the right legal advice and support, you can achieve the best possible outcome. Repute Law’s team of highly skilled and experienced Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers is committed to providing exceptional client service and ensuring you are Court Ready®. This process was devised by Repute Law and will thoroughly prepare you for your Court appearance should your case go that far. It includes advice on various aspects like what to wear and how to behave in Court and guidance to help you understand Courtroom proceedings.

By engaging Repute Law at the earliest opportunity, our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers can promptly gather evidence, interview witnesses and prepare the best possible defence. Our team will negotiate with the police, aiming to minimise reputational loss by seeking to have the charges reduced or even dismissed without going to Court. Early representation could mean the difference between a conviction and an acquittal.

Contact Repute Law today to take the first step in resolving your assault charges and securing your future.
Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

The content in this blog is to provide general information only and is not intended to provide and does not constitute legal advice on any matter. You should not rely upon the information contained in this blog as legal advice. Please contact us if you wish to discuss anything relevant in this blog. Any communications arising from this site are not intended to and do not create a legal relationship between Repute Law and any person.

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