This article aims to provide an overview regarding the offence of assault during public disorder: how they are committed, elements of the offence, the defences available to the accused, and the penalty imposed by the applicable law in New South Wales.
The offence of assault during public disorder is an offence against the persons which can only be committed under certain instances provided by the law. It is severely punished than the common or ordinary assault because of the disregard of humane conditions that should have required more compassion to another person.
There are two important elements of the offence of assault during public disorder that must be proven by the prosecution. The first element is that there must be an assault. The second is that it must be committed during a large-scale public disorder. These two elements must be proven by the prosecution separately. For better understanding of the offence, let us briefly discuss the two elements.
Assault is defined as the direct infliction of injury, force or violence upon a person. However, there can also be an assault even if there is no physical or actual contact with the victim. A threat to commit an unlawful act against the victim or an overt act that tends to produce in the mind of the victim a danger of an imminent character upon his person already constitutes the crime.
Public disorder means a riot or other civil disturbance that gives rise to a serious risk to public safety, whether at a single location or resulting from a series of incidents in the same or different location. (Section 4 of Crimes Act 1900) The law requires not jut public disorder; it must be during a large-scale public disorder.
Needless to say, the offence of assault must be committed during any public disorder provided by the law. The two elements must go together for the offence of assault during public disorder to be committed. Absent in any one of which will constitute any other offence but not an offence of assault during public disorder.
The offence of assault during public disorder is defined and punished under Section 59A of Crimes Act 1900. It is considered by the law an offence against the persons. The quantum of proof necessary to convict the offender is to establish his or her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The accused in this offence may allege in his defence that there was no public disorder when the assault was committed or the assault was not committed during the public disorder. This is important because if the assault is carried out during a public disorder, a higher penalty entails to the accused if convicted.
It may also be alleged that the public disorder was incidental only to the offence of assault and that there was no intention to take advantage the situation to assault the victim. And most importantly, the accused may also set up by way of defence that he or she acted only in self-defence in assaulting the victim.
The maximum penalty imposed upon the convicted person of the offence of assault during public order varies depending on how and when the offence was committed. A person who assaults any person during a large-scale public disorder, although not occasioning actual bodily harm, is liable to imprisonment for 5 years. (Section 59A (1) of Crimes Act 1900).
However, if a person who assaults any person during a large-scale public disorder and by the assault occasions actual bodily harm, is liable to imprisonment for 7 years. (Section 59A (2) of Crimes Act 1900) It is worthy to note that penalty provided by law for this offence is higher that the common assault. This is because the act was the taking advantage of the situation where the victim was not in a position to properly defend himself.
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Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.