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Assault is recognised under Australian law as an offence against the individual, irrespective of the seriousness of the offence. Also, Australian law prescribes various charges for the act of assault. The act of assault is always intentional and entails reasonable apprehension by the victim of immediate harm irrespective of whether the actual harm has occurred.

In this light, the offence of assault may take place, for instance, when the perpetrator aims at touching, striking, moving or applying force without the victim’s consent, or when the victim’s consent has been obtained by means of fraud or duress. As the foregoing discussion must suggest, it is irrelevant whether a physical harm has been inflicted on the victim of assault, because a mere attempt to attack or a threat of force suffices. It is extremely interesting to note that assault may also be committed if the perpetrator utilises heat, light, odours, electricity, or any substance in order to cause personal inconvenience or injury to another individual.

Australian law differentiates among five specific types of assault, such as common assault, unlawful wounding, assault causing bodily harm (battery), assault causing serious bodily harm (aggravated assault, aggravated battery), and sexual assault. As far as the first type of assault is concerned, it needs to be admitted that common assault is the most widely spread criminal charge in Australia, because it may ensue from a usual argument or scuffle. The fact of common assault is usually proved when an argument with another individual was accompanied by threats, or, alternatively, insignificant injuries were inflicted by way of a contact with other person’s body as a result of a shove, hit, push, etc. Besides, a common assault may take place also when the perpetrator spits or throws an object at another person.

The second type of assault is giving birth in situations when the victim of assault suffers a bodily injury, such as swelling or bruising. However, if the bodily harm was inflicted by means of a weapon, this type of assault may be upgraded to aggravated assault causing bodily injury. Unlawful wounding is the third type of assault under Australian law. It occurs under circumstances when assault leads to bleeding or other wounding of the outer layer of the victim’s skin. By contrast, the fourth type of assault, assault causing grievous bodily harm, takes place if the actual assault resulted in the loss of a distinct part of an organ, or substantial disfigurement or harm to the victim’s life or health if left untreated.

The last but not least, a sexual assault should be understood as an offensive touching or inducement of the victim to commit an act of gross indecency, as well as forcing the victim to become a witness of an act of gross indecency. Australian law defines the term gross indecency as an act which does not result in penetration, but involves offensive touching.

Statutory regulation of assault in the territory of Australia

Different states of Australia have specific legislation regulating the above-captioned charges of assault. In Queensland, for instance, the legal definition of assault and various penalties for assault are specified in chapters 30 and 32 of the Criminal Code 1899. By comparison, divisions 6 and 9 of the Crimes Act 1900 regulate various types of assault as criminal offences against a person in New South Wales. Section 31 of the Crimes Act 1958 specifies different types of assault in Victoria. Part V of the Criminal Code 1913 regulates assault offences in Western Australia, while Part 3 Division 7 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 sets forth provisions regulating assault in South Australia. Also, Parts IV and V of the Criminal Code 1924 regulate assault in Tasmania, while Part VI, Division 5 of the Criminal Code specifies how assault is regulated in the Northern Territory.