There are many offences which fit into the broad category of assault. They vary in their seriousness depending largely on the degree of harm that is caused to the victim.

The most common of these offences are set out below in ascending order of gravity. Because these offences all have assault as their basic ingredient, they share a number of potential defences including:

  • Self defence

  • Necessity

  • Duress

In order to determine whether any of these defences apply to your situation, you should contact a skilled and experienced criminal lawyer. 


Common assault can be committed either by the use of violence against another person, or by a threat of violence. Because it does not involve injury, it is the least serious of the assault style offences. However, the courts still take it seriously and routinely impose convictions and even gaol sentences. Avoiding such consequences requires careful preparation and strong advocacy.

​Maximum penalty: 2 years imprisonment


Commonly abbreviated as AOABH, this offence is committed where there is an assault which results in injury. The injury needs to be more than ‘transient or trifling’ but can include things as minor as bruising or small cuts. There must be a causative link between the assault and the injury. In serious cases the courts can impose substantial gaol sentences upon conviction.

Maximum penalty: 5 years imprisonment


A wound exists any time there is a cut that penetrates both the external and internal layers of the skin (dermis and epidermis). This kind of injury is often associated with stabbing offences and is generally considered to be very serious. However, technically something as minor as a split lip could be a wound. Where the wound is minor, the prosecution can often be persuaded to proceed with a less serious charge. It is in this kind of negotiation that Christian’s experience as a prosecutor gives you an invaluable advantage.

Maximum penalty: 10 years imprisonment


Grievous bodily harm (GBH) is a legal term which simply means ‘really serious injury.’ Generally speaking, injuries that require surgery or which cause lasting disfigurement will be considered GBH. A collection of less serious injuries can also in some cases amount to GBH. Because ‘really serious injury’ is an imprecise concept, the prosecution can sometimes be convinced to reduce a GBH charge to a lesser charge such as assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Importantly, to be guilty of this offence a person does not need to ‘intend’ to cause GBH, but must only have 'foreseen' that really serious injury was a 'possible' consequence of their behaviour. This means that an act such as a punch will usually be sufficient proof of intention. Gaol sentences are routinely imposed for this kind of offence. If you have been charged with recklessly causing GBH, you should obtain legal advice immediately.

Maximum penalty: 10 years imprisonment


This offence shares much in common with ‘recklessly causing GBH’ / ‘reckless wound’ however the major distinction is that for this offence the prosecution must prove that the accused ‘intended’ to cause really serious injury. Because this charge deals with deliberate harm it carries a severe penalty of up to 25 years in gaol. It is prosecuted in the District Court and on conviction almost always results in a heavy gaol sentence. 

There are a number of ways in which a skilled lawyer might convince the prosecution to proceed with a less serious category of assault. This charge negotiation can be the difference between receiving a long gaol term, and a sentence like a bond or suspended sentence. Depending on the evidence in a particular case, there are also a number of ways that your lawyer may be able to fight this charge at trial.

If you are charged with intentionally causing GBH you should immediately contact a skilled and experienced criminal defence lawyer.


Maximum penalty: 25 years imprisonment