Assault Police

Assaulting a police officer is a serious criminal offence in New South Wales and the penalties for this offence can be severe. The specific penalties for assaulting a police officer in NSW will depend on the circumstances of the offence, the level of harm caused, and the offender's criminal history.

Assaults and other actions against police officers are mainly criminalised under section 60 of the Crimes Act 1900.

The offences can be in addition to, or in the course of:

- Common assault
- Assault occasioning actual bodily harm 
- Assault occasioning grievous bodily harm 
- Reckless wounding 
- Intentionally or recklessly causing bodily harm with a weapon

The main offence under section 60(1) criminalises ‘assaulting, throwing a missile at, stalking, harassing, or intimidating a police officer while in the execution of the officer’s duty, although no actual bodily harm is occasioned to the officer.’

What the prosecution needs to prove

If you have been charged with assaulting a police officer, the prosecution will need to prove that the:

  • The victim was a police officer,

  • The act was committed against them in the course of their duty, and 

  • Any elements related to assault, throwing a missile at, stalking, harassing, or intimidating alike to any offence against a normal citizen.

An act will be considered to be against a police officer whether or not they are on duty, if it is carried out due to: 

  • Actions by the officer while executing their duty (i.e., as retaliation), or

  • The fact he or she is a police officer.

For example, if you are charged with committing common assault against a police officer, the prosecution will need to additionally prove:

With physical force applied 

  • A striking, touching or application of force by the defendant to another person.

  • That such conduct of the defendant was without consent of the complainant.

  • That such conduct was intentional or reckless in the sense that the defendant realised that the complainant might be subject to immediate and unlawful violence, however slight as a result of what he or she was about to do, but yet took the risk that that might happen.

  • That such conduct was without lawful excuse.

Without physical force applied 

  • An act by the defendant which intentionally, or recklessly, causes another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence.

  • That such conduct of the defendant was without consent of the complainant.

  • That such conduct was intentional or reckless in the sense that the defendant realised that the complainant might be subject to immediate and unlawful violence, however slight as a result of what he or she was about to do, but yet took the risk that that might happen.

  • That such conduct was without lawful excuse.

Other variations of the offence include where:

  • the assault against the police officer occasions actual bodily harm,

  • the police officer is wounded or suffers grievous bodily harm, with the offender reckless as to causing actual bodily harm to that officer or any other person.

  • the offence occurs during a public disorder (i.e., riot).

Actual bodily harm refers to an injury that is more than ‘transient’ or ‘trifling’ but is not required to be permanent. Examples include scratches and bruises.

Wounding refers to the breaking or cutting of the interior layer of the skin, whereas grievous bodily harm refers to any ‘really serious injury’.

It includes the destruction (other than in the course of a lawful abortion) of the foetus of a pregnant woman, any permanent or serious disfiguring of the person, and any grievous bodily disease.

Therefore, if charged with one of these offences, the prosecution will need to prove that you caused such an injury.

Penalties

The court imposes heavy penalties on offenders who are found guilty of assaulting a police officer in execution of their duty. 

If you assault a police officer but there is no actual bodily harm involved, for instance, a charge of common assault, the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment. 

This is a ‘table 2’ offence which means that it will be dealt with in the Local Court unless the prosecution elect for the matter to be dealt with in the District Court.

This means that it is regularly dealt with in the Local Court, where the maximum penalty is limited to 2 years imprisonment and/or a $5,500 fine. 

If you assault a police officer but there is actual bodily harm involved, the maximum penalty is 7 years imprisonment. 

This is a ‘table 1’ offence which means that it will be dealt with in the Local Court unless the prosecution or defence elect for the matter to be dealt with in the District Court.

In the Local Court, the maximum penalty is limited to 2 years imprisonment and/or a $11,000 fine. 

If you assault a police officer with grievous bodily harm or wounding involved, the maximum penalty is 12 years imprisonment. This matter is ‘strictly indictable’ and must proceed to the District Court. 

In addition to these criminal penalties, the court may also order the offender to pay compensation to the victim and/or undertake community service or other orders.

It is also important to note that assaulting a police officer is considered an aggravating factor in sentencing for other offences. This means that if the offender commits another offence while assaulting a police officer, they may face a higher penalty for that offence. 

Even though assaulting a police officer is considered a serious and aggravated offence, apart from a full-time custodial sentence, you may also be eligible for the following penalties based on the circumstances:

  • S10(1)(A) dismissal.

  • Conditional release order without conviction.

  • Conditional release order with conviction.

  • Fine.

  • Community corrections order.

  • Intensive corrections order.

It is important to work with your lawyer to prepare your case properly to give yourself the best chance to avoid any custodial sentence or receive a non-conviction penalty.

Defences

  • Mistaken identity

  • Self-defence

  • False allegation

  • Necessity or duress

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