ASSAULTS AND OFFENCES OF VIOLENCE
“Offences of violence” is a broad category of offences which generally refer to the use of some force by one person to another which is not otherwise authorised, justified, or excused by law.
There are many available defences to charges of this nature. We can advise you as to whether you have a defence of self-defence, or provocation, for example.
Penalties for offences of violence vary markedly - from a minor fine for a first time offender charged with an assault, to lengthy periods of imprisonment.
For the offence of common assault, the force used need not cause any injury whatsoever, but rather simply have resulted in pain or personal discomfort. Indeed, even threatened violence, without any force actually being applied, can be sufficient to constitute the offence. An example of a common assault is a punch or a slap which causes minor pain or discomfort but does not otherwise result in an injury.
A serious assault can be described as an “aggravated” common assault. The Criminal Code lists a series of instances where a ‘serious assault‘ can be alleged, such as:
A more serious form of assault is one occasioning bodily harm, and is usually charged where an injury is caused, but where that injury would not result in death or any permanent injury or disfigurement.
Examples of such injuries include cuts and bruises, or fractured bones which do not require treatment to avoid permanent injury. In some instances a more serious version of the charge can be laid; the prosecution may allege a ‘circumstance of aggravation’, which in the case of an assault occasioning bodily harm allegation, could be where:
Wounding is an offence which may be charged in circumstances where the skin is broken or penetrated. A common example of wounding is where the injury is as a result of a “glassing” or having been inflicted by a knife.
The offence of causing grievous bodily harm is reserved for cases where serious injury or disfigurement has been caused, or where the results of an attack could have been life-threatening for the victim had they not been medically treated.
Examples of injuries which may constitute GBH include serious bone fractures, and injuries which cause a lot of bleeding. Whether an injury is sufficient to constitute GBH is often the subject of argument, as medical opinions may differ. For this reason, it is often desirable for the defence team to engage to services of a forensic expert to provide a medical opinion, particularly given the serious penalties imposed for a charge of GBH.
Manslaughter may be alleged in circumstances where a person unlawfully causes the death (kills) another person, however in doing so, did not intend to cause that death. That lack of intent is what separates this offence from murder. The accused’s actions need only be a “substantial or significant” cause of the death, or which “substantially contributed to it”.
Murder is regarded as the most serious crime that a person can commit. As with the offence of manslaughter, the first element of the charge of murder is that there has been an unlawful killing - that is, a killing that is otherwise not justified or excused at law (see below for possible defences to murder). For a charge of murder to be made out, whilst intention is necessary, it need not be an intention to kill, but can include an intention to cause grievous bodily harm. Like the offence of manslaughter, the offending actions need only be a “substantial or significant” cause of death, or which “substantially contributed to it”.
There are various complete and partial defences to murder. A complete defence, if successful, will result in an acquittal altogether, while a successful partial defence - such as “diminished responsibility”, will result in a verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.