What is an assault?

In Victoria, assault offences are legislated by the Crimes Act and the Summary Offences Act. Crimes of assault are some of the most serious offences committed against the person. There are many different offences and associated penalties, most of which depend on the seriousness of the assault.

Assault can include:

  • A harmful act;
  • Intentional or reckless behaviour;
  • Nonconsensual act or an act that involved fraudulently obtaining consent;
  • Direct or indirect actions; or
  • Assisting in an assault.

It can also include verbal threats.

In Victoria, there are various sentences or punishments for committing an assault. These typically depend on the seriousness and any relevant circumstances. They will be explored further below.


What are the different types of assault charges?

There are many different types of assault and violence charges. These can include the following:

  • Affray;
  • Common assault;
  • Aggravated assault;
  • More serious assaults;
  • Intentionally or recklessly causing injury; and
  • Certain indecent assaults.

It can also be assault where your actions result in another person having a reasonable belief that you are about to hit them, even if you do not make physical contact.

If you or someone you know is charged with any of these assault offences, our experienced criminal lawyers can help. Contact them now.



Affray is serious common law offence that relates to public and violent disorder.

Assault offences that constitute an affray include:

  • Public melee or a fight;
  • Yelling or threatening to assault a person;
  • Participating in a riot or public disturbance;
  • Engaging in road rage; or
  • Making malicious panic calls in a public place.

Depending on the severity and outcome of the affray, a person found guilty may face up to five years imprisonment under Section 320 of the Crimes Act.


Common Assault

Section 23 of the Summary Offences Act and the common law dictate what constitutes a common assault. Under Section 23, a person is guilty of an offence should they unlawfully assault or beat another person. These assaults generally include those which do not result in injury.

They are typically adjudicated before a Magistrate and someone found guilty of common assault faces a maximum penalty of three months imprisonment.


Aggravated Assault

The Courts consider aggravated assaults to be much more serious than common assaults. Section 24 of the Summary Offences Act divides aggravated assaults into two subcategories:

(i) Assaults against children under 14 years of age, and women; and

(ii) Assaults that are of such an aggravated nature that they cannot be sufficiently punished under Section 23.

The former, assaults against children under 14 and women, attracts a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment.

Assaults that include multiple offenders or modes of assault attract a maximum term of 12 months imprisonment. Assaults that include kicking someone or the use of any weapon of instrument attract a maximum term of 24 months imprisonment.


More serious assaults

Serious assaults are where the injury caused is grave, life-threatening, or causes the loss of body parts. Some of these serious assault offences include:

  • Wounding - piercing the skin or leading to blood loss;
  • Cranial injuries and damage to the skull;
  • Permanent disfigurement;
  • Burns;
  • Blows with a weapon; or
  • The use of electrical, gas, heat or other energy sources to harmful extents.

These indictable assaults can include:

  • An intention to commit murder;
  • Assaulting a Police Officer;
  • Assaulting an emergency worker; or
  • Reckless actions leading to serious injuries.

These are usually heard before the County Court, although parties may agree to deal with the matter summarily, before a Magistrate. A person found guilty of a serious assault faces a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. 


Intentionally or recklessly causing injury

Sections 15A through to 19 of the Crimes Act cover intentionally or recklessly causing injury. An injury includes:

  • Unconsciousness;
  • Substantial pain;
  • A protracted injury;
  • An injury that alters the sufferer's routine;
  • Disfigurement; and
  • Mental illness, and more.

Should the Court determine that the injury was caused intentionally, it may sentence a penalty of up to five years imprisonment.

The more serious of these assault offences are heard before the County Court, while some less serious will be heard in the Magistrates' Court.


Threatening to kill a person or inflict serious injury

Threats to kill are legislated by Section 20 of the Crimes Act, while threats to inflict serious injury are covered by Section 21. These sections cover all assault charges that include verbal assaults and attempts to verbally assault.

Threats to seriously injure a person carry a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, and threats to kill or seriously torture carry a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.


Certain indecent assaults

Section 39 and 40 of the Crimes Act constitutes all assault offences relating to rape, molestation, and other unlawful sexual actions.

Assault offences made out under these sections are very serious and carry varying maximum sentences depending on the type and severity of the offence. You can read more about them on our article on Sexual Offences (link to be added - page not yet drafted).


If you or someone you know is charged with any of these assault offences, our experienced criminal lawyers can help. Contact them now.


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The information on this website is of a general nature only and may not reflect recent changes to certain areas of law. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for discussing your situation with a qualified legal practitioner. Contact us for more information.