• Jarrod Carter

Offences Against the Person

Updated: May 2

Western Australian Criminal Law includes several offences against a person which outline what a person can be charged with after causing or attempting to cause harm to another person. These offences can range from minor to serious and can lead to imprisonment upwards of 10 years.


What are the different types of offences against the persons and where are they found?

Part V of The Criminal Code (WA) contains offences against the person. These offences include assault (s 222), grievous bodily harm (s 297), wounding (s 301), bodily harm (s 317) and serious assault (s 318).


What constitutes an assault?


The simplest offence involving assault is common assault (s 313 Criminal Code (WA)). This offence occurs simply if a person is found to have unlawfully assaulted another person and could result in either an 18-month prison sentence or a fine of $18,000. The two key elements of an assault are that either force or a threat of force against another person is present and that consent for this force doesn’t occur.


The force applied does not need to be directly caused by the person and can include force from a device controlled by the accused or through heat, light or gas among other things that has been caused by an action of the accused.


Regarding the other element, lack of consent, assault can still be found to have occurred if consent was given but had been obtained by fraud. Consent can also be found to have been given impliedly.


There is no requirement that the defendant intended to commit the offence as it is not expressly given by the offence provision. If the defendant either intended to commit the offence or cause harm, then they could be liable for the offence of assault with intent which is found in section 317A of The Criminal Code (WA) and could be liable to 5 years imprisonment.


How does assault causing bodily harm differ from common assault?


The key difference between common assault and assault causing bodily harm is that assault causing bodily harm requires that bodily harm has occurred. The Code defines bodily harm as any injury that interferes with health or discomfort. This offence can lead to a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. If the bodily harm is caused by an unlawful act or a failure to act under a person’s duty that person could face 7 years of imprisonment. Furthermore, if that act is committed with an intent to harm, this increases to up to 20 years imprisonment.


What is the difference between grievous bodily harm, bodily harm, and wounding?

An injury is said to be grievous bodily harm if the injury endangers or is likely to endanger life or if the injury is or is likely to be permanent. Grievous bodily harm is found in several offences against persons such as culpable driving causing death or grievous bodily harm (s 284), act intended to cause grievous bodily harm or prevent arrest (s 294), or the simple offence of causing grievous bodily harm (s 297). The regular maximum sentence for causing grievous bodily harm amounts to 10 years.

Wounding is said to have occurred if a person wounds or causes any poison or similar noxious thing to be administered to another person. This can lead to an imprisonment of 5 years.


How does serious assault differ from common assault?


The key difference between common assault and serious assault is that the victim in serious assault must be a public officer. A public officer, for the purposes of this offence, can include a police officer, a train conductor, an ambulance officer, or a hospital worker. This maximum imprisonment for this offence is 7 years. If the officer is a member of an aircraft crew this is a separate offence found under section 318A of The Criminal Code (WA).


Are there any other offences that need to be considered?


Some other offences against persons that are codified in the Act that are relevant are unlawful assault causing death (s 281), indecent assault (s 323) and assault with intent to rob (s393).


For a person to have committed unlawful assault causing death the person must have committed an assault, and the victim must die as a direct or indirect result of this assault. Whether or not the accused intended to kill the victim does not matter and if found guilty the accused could be liable to imprisonment for 20 years.


If the assault was committed under indecent circumstances, then the accused can be liable to 5 years imprisonment.


For a person to have committed assault with intent to rob the person must have intended to steal a thing, and to have used or threatened violence to obtain the thing or prevent resistance to take the thing. The regular penalty for this offence is 10 years imprisonment, however if the offender is armed and circumstances of aggravation are present then this penalty increases to a possible life imprisonment.


What are circumstances of aggravation and how do they affect penalties?

Circumstances of aggravation can be applied to many of the offences found in Part V of The Criminal Code. These circumstances can generally occur if;


1. There is a family relationship between the victim of the offence and the perpetrator,

2. There was a child present when the offence was committed,

3. The conduct of the offender constituted a breach of an order made under the Restraining Order Act 1997

4. If the victim is over the age of 60,

5. If the offender demonstrates either before or after the offence hostility towards the victim based on the victims racial group; or

6. If the offence was racially motivated.

The effect of these circumstances of aggravation is an increased penalty. An example of this is that whereas the regular penalty for common assault is 18 months imprisonment and a fine of $18000, in circumstances of aggravation this penalty increases to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of $36000.

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