Unlawful assault is a summary offence punishable by a fine of 15 penalty units or three months imprisonment. Unlawful assault or common assault is the least serious of the assault offences and jurisdiction lies with the Magistrates Court.
Section 23 of the Summary Offences Act 1966 provides that any person who unlawfully assaults or beats another person shall be guilty of an offence.
Injuring another person where such injuries are not serious fall under unlawful assault. Examples are kicking, hitting, slapping, scratching and pushing another person. Spitting at another person may also constitute unlawful assault.
If the injuries sustained by the victim are serious and intentionally inflicted by the offender then the offence would be Intentionally Causing Serious Injury which is a more serious offence and punishable by a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
The police and the prosecution have to prove beyond reasonable doubt the following elements:
The offender can argue against the facts presented by the prosecution. Self-defence or defence of another is a plausible defence against a charge of unlawful assault. To successfully invoke self-defence, it must be proven that the victim unlawfully provoked the offender causing the latter to defend his/her person or another person.
Another possible defence is that the offender was not acting intentionally or recklessly. Thus, the offender may present a set of factual circumstances proving that the injury was caused accidentally or that the offender was not motivated to act with violence against the victim.
One of the possible defences actually raised in a charge for unlawful assault is that the offender acted with the consent of the victim.
These defences actually depend on the facts attendant to every case. However, the burden is always upon the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt whereas the offender is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Thus, the prosecution has a heavier burden in every criminal case as the strength of its case rises and falls on the strength of its own evidence and not on the weakness of the defence.
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.