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An act, to be considered an assault, does not necessarily involve bodily harm

Assault is defined as any act by which a person, whether intentionally or recklessly, causes another person to apprehend an immediate and unlawful violence.

An act, to be considered an assault, does not necessarily involve bodily harm. Section 61 of the Crimes Act 1900 provides:

  • “Whosoever assaults any person, although not occasioning actual bodily harm shall be liable to imprisonment for two years.”

This provision clearly states that an assault may be committed even without causing actual physical harm. This type of assault is called common assault. In a long line of cases, courts have ruled that for assault to be charged it is sufficient if a threat of violence is formed in the mind of a reasonable person. Before a person may be convicted of common assault the following elements must be present:

  • Act which whether committed intentionally or recklessly, caused the complainant to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence;
  • Act was committed without consent of the other person;
  • Act was committed despite that accused realized that complainant might fear an immediate and unlawful violence
  • Act was committed without lawful excuse

Anent to assault causing physical harm, Section 59 of Crimes Act 1900 provides:
“Whosoever assaults any person and thereby occasions actual bodily harm shall be liable to imprisonment for five years.”

The Crimes Act provides for two types of assault, one that causes bodily harm and the other without. Hence, there are also two penalties: 2 years and 5 five years of imprisonment. The elements for assault occasioning bodily harm are:

  • Application of force, whether light or heavy, against complainant
  • Act was committed without consent
  • Act was committed despite that accused realized that complainant might be subject to an immediate and unlawful violence, that regardless of how slight was his act accused still took that risk
  • Act was committed without lawful excuse

Whether common assault or assault occasioning bodily harm the evidence presented must be sufficient to convict the accused as guilty beyond reasonable doubt. It is the prosecution that will bear the burden of proving that all the elements of assault are present. Failure to do so shall entitle the accused to acquittal.

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.

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