Assault occasioning actual bodily harm
The offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in the Australian Capital Territory appears in section 24 of the Crimes Act. The offence is more serious than common assault but less serious than assaults that result in grievous bodily harm.
An assault occasioning actual bodily harm is similar to the offence of inflicting actual bodily harm. The primary difference between an assault “occasioning” actual bodily harm and the offence of “inflicting” actual bodily harm involves the accused’s state of mind.
An assault occasioning actual bodily harm is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 5 years. The maximum increases to 7 years if the accused assaulted a pregnant woman, knowing she was pregnant, and caused serious harm to the pregnancy.
Elements of the offence
To establish the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, the prosecution must prove that the accused:
- assaulted another person, and
- the assault occasioned
- actual bodily harm
Examining each of those elements will help you understand the offence.
Section 24 requires proof that the accused assaulted another person. An assault is essentially a threat to harm another person or an act that causes harm to another person. The meaning of “assault” is discussed in more detail in our explanation of the offence of common assault.
State of mind
An assault under section 24 must “occasion” actual bodily harm while section 23 requires proof that the accused “inflicted” actual bodily harm. The difference between the two depends upon the accused’s state of mind. The “infliction” of bodily harm requires proof that the accused intended to cause the harm or caused the harm recklessly with knowledge that the harm was likely to occur. An accused can “occasion” bodily harm without intending to cause any harm and without acting recklessly.
The state of mind required by section 24 is an intent to commit an assault rather than an intent to cause bodily harm. The accused need not intend that the assault cause any harm other than fear of violence. For instance, if an accused intends to shove another person but does not intend to harm the person physically, the accused commits the offense of assault occasioning actual bodily harm if the person who was shoved falls and sustains an injury. The same facts would not establish the offence of inflicting actual bodily harm because the accused did not intend to cause bodily harm.
Actual bodily harm
Actual bodily harm usually involves a visible physical injury, such as a bruise or scratch. In some cases, pain alone or a serious psychological injury can constitute actual bodily harm. The term is discussed in more detail in our article on the offence of inflicting actual bodily harm.