Criminal Offences

Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm

In accordance to section 59 of the Crimes Act 1900, any person who assaults another individual and occasions actual bodily harm is a criminal offence. To be liable for this charge, the Police will have to prove that an assault has been committed which resulted in an injury. Similar to common assault, the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm is one of the most frequently prosecuted offences dealt with in the Local Court, however, attracts more significant penalties.

In order to best understand the offence, it is essential to define and understand what the Court deems actual bodily harm. A commonly cited case, R v. Donovan [1931] KB 498, provides a helpful explanation of actual bodily harm in which it is defined as any hurt against another person that does not necessarily have to be permanent but must not be “merely transient or trifling”. By this explanation, injuries that may be classified as actual bodily harm include scratches, bruising or cuts. This definition is significant in assault cases as the absence of injuries could have the charged reduced to common assault, while more serious injuries are classified as grievous bodily harm and thus attract significantly harsher penalties.

It is also important to understand that the offence may be aggravated if the act was committed in the presence of another individual as per section 59(2) of the Crimes Act. If found guilty, individuals may be subject to harsher penalties and a maximum of 7 years imprisonment.


Assault occasioning actual bodily harm is classified as a table 2 offence, attracting a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment if heard in a District Court. However, with this being said, our Sydney based criminal defence lawyers typically experience that majority of these cases are dealt with in a Local Court. If this is the case, the maximum penalty imposed for guilty individuals is 2 years imprisonment.

However, as stipulated in section 59(2) of the Crimes Act, offenders who have committed the act in front of other individuals are subject to harsher penalties. If this is the case, a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment applies.

Some individuals may have other, less serious penalties imposed on them in situations where the Court deems appropriate. Some of these situations include home detention, intensive correction orders, community service and fines.

While unlikely due to the nature of the situation, some individuals may also be dealt with by the means of a Section 10 dismissal. This means that no criminal conviction is recorded, nor will any penalties be imposed unless the Court applies particular conditions. The Court will consider previous criminal history and personal circumstances before awarding individuals with a Section 10 dismissal.

If you or someone you know has been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, it is best to seek legal advice from our criminal defence lawyers at Benjamin Leonardo to determine the most relevant penalties that may apply to the specific case.


In order to be convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, the prosecution team must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt with corresponding evidence that you did in fact applied non-consensual force to another individual in a reckless or intention nature. This force must also result in actual bodily harm; such as scratches or bruises.

If you choose to agree with the allegations set our against you, you have the option to enter a guilty plea. In such circumstances, the Court will proceed to penalise you as per the convictions mentioned above. While you may be facing maximum penalties of 5 years in a District Court, the Court typically rewards those who plead guilty, as it shows remorse for your actions. As a result, it is not uncommon to see the Court award less significant penalties in comparison to those who are found guilty otherwise.

At Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders, we are some of the best criminal lawyers in Sydney, winning multiple awards and cases in Courts around Australia. If you are facing a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, we recommend scheduling a consultation with our expert criminal defence lawyers in order to assess your case and accurately advise you on the penalties you may be facing if you are guilty.


You also have the option to plead not guilty to the charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. If this is the case, the prosecution team must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you did commit the offence as per section 59 of the Crimes Act 1900. If it can be proven, it is likely that you will be convicted as per the penalties listed above.

However, at Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders, our Sydney based assault lawyers have achieved successful results for clients in such situations. In order to avoid conviction, our criminal defence lawyers will challenge the allegations set out against you, by arguing the following defences. If we are able to successfully do this, the Court may completely dismiss the charges in which you will no longer be penalised. It may also result in less serious penalties or be downgraded to a less significant charge which is more favourable than imprisonment.

For relevant advice in relation to whether you should plead guilty or not guilty, please do not hesitate to contact our Sydney based criminal law firm for a consultation.


If you are pleading not guilty to the assault charges, our criminal defence lawyers can argue the following defences:

Duress: Involves the use of unlawful pressure to encourage an individual to commit a criminal act, which they would not usually participate in had a threat not been present. This coercion can take the form of harmful threats such as death or grievous bodily harm in which the accused believes that if they do not participate in the activity it is likely the threat will be played out.

Necessity: The defence of necessity can be argued in situations where it is found that the accused was in imminent danger by either human or natural forces. In order for the Court to deem that the accused’s actions were justifiable as a means of necessity, our criminal defence lawyers will need to establish that activity was only undertaken in order to avoid consequences that were deemed as “irreparable evil”. Our Sydney based assault lawyers may also be able to determine that the criminal offence was committed by the act of necessity if our client holistically believes that they were in a situation of “imminent peril” and that they had no other alternatives to avoid the impending threat.

Self-Defence: One of the most common defences to assault occasioning actual bodily harm is self-defence. Self-defence can be argued in situations where the accused has participated in the criminal act in order to protect their property, themselves or another person from an unjust aggressor. It may be found that in the circumstances leading up to the act of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, that the offender was actually acting in accordance with protecting themselves, other individuals or their property.


As a table 2 offence, assault occasioning actual bodily harm may be dealt with in the District Court. While this is possible, our criminal defence lawyers typically experience that the majority of cases are heard in the Local Court.

Although our criminal defence lawyers are based in Parramatta and the Sydney CBD, we have extensive experience in defending criminal cases all over NSW. Therefore, we are able to effectively represent our clients in Local, District and Supreme Courts and can advise you on in relation to what to expect at each.