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Assault Offences

John Sutton

Assaults can be committed in a variety of ways and can vary greatly in seriousness. An Assault can range from a verbal threat to cause harm to someone to the infliction of very serious injuries.

This section sets out the various definitions which relate to Assaults, the various Assault-related offences and the maximum penalties which apply to Assault-related charges. It also sets out what defences may be available to a person who has been charged with Assault in Western Australia.

All references to Acts in this section refer to the Criminal Code 1913 (WA) (the Code). This Code is found in Appendix A of the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA).


Pursuant to Section 222 of the Code, Assault occurs when a person directly or indirectly:

  • Strikes;
  • Touches;
  • Moves; or
  • Otherwise applies force of any kind;

to the person of another without the other person’s consent.

An Assault also occurs where a person uses:

  • A bodily action or gesture; or
  • Threatens to apply force of any kind;

to another person without the other person’s consent and it appears to the other person that the person can actually or apparently commit an Assault upon them. This means that an Assault can be committed without the person making any actual physical contact to the other person.

Pursuant to Section 223, Assault is unlawful and a person who Assaults another commits an offence unless the act was authorised, justified or excused by law.


In certain prescribed circumstances an Assault is considered to have been committed in “circumstances of aggravation”. An Assault committed in such circumstances carries an increased maximum sentence for the offence: refer to the Penalties for Assault-Related Offences table.

Pursuant to Section 221 of the Code, an Assault is considered to involve circumstances of aggravation in circumstances where:

  • The offender is in a family or domestic relationship with the victim;
  • A child was present when the offence was committed;
  • The conduct of the offender in committing the offence constituted a breach of an order made or registered under the Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA) or to which that Act applies; or
  • The victim is over 60 years old.

The effect of the presence of “circumstances of aggravation” is in sentencing for the offence. A more severe penalty can be imposed when there are such circumstances.


Pursuant to Section 80I of the Code, “circumstances of racial aggravation” can have the same effect as “circumstances of aggravation” pursuant to Section 221 of the Code. “Circumstances of racial aggravation” occur where:

  • Immediately before or during or immediately after the commission of the offence, the offender demonstrated hostility towards the victim based, in whole or part, on the victim being a member of a racial group; or
  • The offence was motivated, in whole or part, by hostility towards persons as members of a racial group.


The term “bodily harm” is defined in Section 1 of the Code and means any bodily injury which interferes with health or comfort. It includes:

  • Causing or intending to cause a person to have a disease which interferes with health or comfort; and
  • If the person is a pregnant woman, causing, intending to cause or doing bodily harm to the woman’s unborn child.


The term “grievous bodily harm” is defined in Section 1 of the Code and means any bodily injury of such a nature as to endanger, or be likely to endanger life, or to cause, or be likely to cause, permanent injury to health. “Grievous bodily harm” includes:

  • Causing or intending to cause a person to have a serious disease; and
  • Causing or doing grievous bodily harm to a woman’s unborn child or causing the loss of a woman’s pregnancy.

Serious Disease

The term “serious disease” is defined in Section 1 of the Code and means a disease of such a nature as to:

  • Endanger, or be likely to endanger, life; or
  • Cause, or be likely to cause, permanent injury to health.

where to next?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

Why Choose Armstrong Legal?

Contact Armstrong Legal:
Perth: (08) 9321 5505
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555
Melbourne: (03) 9620 2777
Brisbane: (07) 3229 4448
Canberra: (02) 6288 1100