Assault is a very common crime dealt with by the Courts, but it is often misunderstood by the lay person.
Originally at common law, there were two separate offences, assault, and battery. An assault being where one person causes another to fear the imminent infliction of unlawful force, whilst battery involved the actual infliction of unlawful force. Today these two previously separate offences have collapsed into one, codified in the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
The most frequent charge of assault before the Courts is common assault, found in section 61 of the Act. It carries a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison and/or a fine of $5,500. To be guilty of common assault the police must prove:
• That you caused another person to fear imminent and unlawful violence, or that you made physical contact with another person, and
• That the other person did not consent, and
• That your actions were intentional or reckless.
The question then arises just how imminent does the threat of violence need to be to constitute an assault?
The case of Zanker v Vartzokas (1988) 34 A Crim R 11, considered this point. It involved a young woman accepting a lift from a man she didn’t know. The man sexually propositioned her whilst driving and the woman asked to be let out of the vehicle. The man increased the speed of the vehicle and said “I am going to take you to my mate’s house. He will really fix you up.” Such was her fear, the woman opened the door of the vehicle and leapt out whilst it was travelling at around 60 kilometres per hour.
The driver was charged with assault. It was accepted by the Court that his words and acceleration of the vehicle were enough to cause the woman to fear for her future safety – when they arrived at the mate’s house. But was this fear immediate enough to constitute assault?
The Court held that the feared injury or harm need not be immediate, it was enough that the threat of harm operated immediately upon the victim’s mind. The defendant was convicted of the assault. The law around assault can be quite complex. Should you be charged with an assault, it is important to ensure you are represented by someone with knowledge and expertise in this area.
Our experienced team at Everingham Solomons can look after you in this regard as Helping You is Our Business.
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