In Queensland, there are a large number of different offences broadly categorised as assault type offences. These offences include:
- Assault/obstruct a police officer;
- Common assault;
- Assault occasioning bodily harm;
- Serious assault;
- Grievous bodily harm; and
- Malicious acts with intent (also referred to as grievous bodily harm with intent).
There are a large number of defences that may be available to an individual who has been charged with an assault type offence, and it is important that considered legal representation is obtained to ensure your interests are being properly protected.
It is important to note that a common assault offence can be committed in circumstances where there is no physical contact with another individual, and a threat to cause harm can sometimes be sufficient. The distinction as to what offences are categorised as common assault, assault occasioning bodily harm, and grievous bodily harm often comes down to the injuries sustained by the other party. In order for an individual to be charged with grievous bodily harm, a certain type of injury must be sustained by the victim, namely the victim must have received an injury that, if left untreated, would have caused permanent disfigurement or death.
In order for an individual to be convicted with an offence of malicious act with intent, prosecutions must prove that the defendant intended to inflict grievous bodily harm on the victim. An offence of grievous bodily harm does not require this intention, as it is the result of the actions, rather than the intention, that is taken into account.
Serious assault is a separate category of offending that does not fall within the usual hierarchy. An individual may be charged with serious assault if any of the following characteristics are present in the offence:
- The assault is on a police officer;
- The assault is on a person aged over 60;
- The assault is on a disabled person; and
- The assault occurs whilst an individual is in custody.
Homicide involves the death of an individual. Queensland Legislation provides for two main offences for homicide – murder and manslaughter.
Murder is regarded as a most serious offence, and attracts periods of life imprisonment for those who are convicted. In order for an individual to be deemed guilty of murder, prosecutions must establish:
- That there is an unlawful killing;
- The defendant’s actions caused (meaning substantial or significant cause) the death; and
- The defendant intended to cause death or grievous bodily harm.
The main distinction between murder and manslaughter is the element of intent. If prosecutions are unable to prove this element, an individual may be acquitted of murder, but convicted of manslaughter.
There are a number of full and partial defences available to an individual who is charged with either of the two offences. Given the potential consequences, it is important that representation is obtained early to ensure your interests are being properly protected.