The charge of serious assault was introduced into Queensland law after concerns police officer, ambulance officers and older Queenslanders were suffering from a higher rate of assaults. It is, as the name suggests serious assault is a serious offence and one that carries a very harsh punishment. It is one of a number of different types of assault charge in Queensland.
What is serious assault?
Serious assault generally occurs when a person assaults a police officer, other public official, a person over the age of 60 or a disabled person. It is not a defence to state that it was not known that the person assaulted was a police officer or over 60.
Section 340 of the Criminal Code sets out the legislation for serious assault.
What does the prosecutor need to prove?
The prosecution must prove that:
- The defendant assaulted the victim.
A person who strikes or otherwise applies force of any kind to the person of another without the other person’s consent is said to have assaulted that person;
- That the victim was a police officer or over 60 or disabled;
- If the victim was a police officer that they were acting in execution of their duty
It is not a defence that the defendant did not know the person assaulted was a police officer
It is a circumstance of aggravation if the defendant assaults a police officer in any of the following circumstances:
- the defendant bites or spits on the police officer or throws at, or in any way applies to, the police officer a bodily fluid or faeces;
- the defendant causes bodily harm to the police officer;
- the defendant is, or pretends to be, armed with a dangerous or offensive weapon or instrument.
It is a circumstance of aggravation for any offence the act if the offence is committed in a public place while the person was adversely affected by an intoxicating substance
What happens in court?
What happens in court very much depends if a person is pleading guilty or not guilty.
Serious assault is an indictable offence. This means the charges start in the Magistrates Court but must ultimately be determined in the District Court. The process from moving to the District Court from the Magistrates Court is known as a committal. It can take 8-12 months to get from the Magistrates Court to the District Court.
If a person pleads not guilty to the charge of serious offence then a trial will take place before jury.
If a person plead guilty then the District Court judge will decide the penalty.
Can the charges be reduced or withdrawn?
It depends very much on the facts, it is possible however in certain circumstances. We have a comprehensive article on case conferencing
In some limited circumstances it might be able possible to refer the charge to justice mediation. If this occurs and the justice mediation is successful the case could be withdrawn.
What is the punishment for serious assault?
The maximum penalty for the offence is 7 years imprisonment but where a person bites or spits at an officer or causes bodily harm to a police officer the maximum sentence increases to 14 years.
The courts in Queensland take a very tough approach to people who are found guilty or plead guilty to spitting on a police officer and a term of actual imprisonment is almost certain. There are a number of steps that should be taken immediately after being charged that may reduce the likelihood of a term of imprisonment or reduce any imprisonment these include;
- providing a written apology to the victim
- proving a person’s medical history to show they suffer from no communicable diseases (if appropriate)
- character references
- treatment for any underlying mental health issues
The penalty depends on a number of factors including
- the circumstances of the offence
- if it involved spitting where the spittle hit the officer (eg if on face)
- The injury to the victim and how they recovered
- The defendants criminal history
When deciding whether to record a conviction to court looks at the following;
- The nature of the offence
- The offenders character and age
- The impact on the offenders
- Economic or social wellbeing; or
- Changes of finding employment
If the punishment is a prison sentence, even wholly suspended, a conviction must be recorded
What defences might exist?
A number of defences may be available to serious assault these include;
- self defence
In some cases a defence of honest and reasonable mistake in relation to whether the officer was on duty at the time. E.g. if the defendant acted under an honest and reasonable but mistaken belief that the person assaulted was in the act of committing a felony or breach of the peace
We will be able to advise you if we believe you have a defence available to you.
Why engage a Lawyer?
Serious assault is a charge where you must have a lawyer represent you in court. This is a charge that not properly handled can have devasting outcomes and long term problems for a person.
What courts do you cover
We cover all courts in South East Queensland from The Gold Coast to Gympie. We are also a criminal law firm, we don’t do any other type of law so we are in the courts every day helping people with charges like this.
We have offices at;
- Gold Coast
- Sunshine Coast
Click here for out office locations.
Click here for a full list of courts we attend
What do you charge?
We charge a flat fee for our services that means no hidden charges or unexpected bills. We will provide a quote before starting any work so you know to the cent what you will be charged.
Our prices include every cost for us to undertake your matter.
How do I get more information or engage Clarity Law to act for me?
If you want to engage us or just need further obligation free information or advice then you can either;
- Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone at a time that suits you
- Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm