A Guide on the Law and Penalties for Acts that Cause Harm to People in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

As criminal law cases over time have revealed, there are countless ways in which a person can intentionally or recklessly cause physical harm to another person.

The most direct way in which this tends to occur is through someone physically assaulting another person, say, by punching them or hitting them with an object or weapon.

But there are also more discreet and devious ways, some of which are verging on messed up.

Take for example a case that made headlines across news outlets last week, in which a woman was injured by a fishing line that was strung up at neck height across a pathway in the south of Adelaide.

The woman was strolling along a trail in the Christie Downs area when she suddenly collided with the fishing line.

It scraped her neck raw, leaving behind a significant red graze.

 

Police Called to Christie Downs Area to Investigate Incident

Around 11am on 28 July 2019, police were called to Flaxmill Road near Paul Court at Christie Downs to investigate the scene.

The fishing line along the trail was removed, however it was soon discovered that more fishing line had also been tied across the driveway of a house in the area.

Police spoke to locals in the area, warning them of the dangerous behaviour.

“It is concerning and dangerous behaviour that could cause serious injury to a cyclist or pedestrian,” district Chief Inspector Scott Fitzgerald said.

 

“Messed Up”: Christies Beach Community Group Shares Image of Woman’s Injury on Facebook to Warn Residents of Dangerous Behaviour

Following the incident, an image of the woman’s grazed, red neck was posted by the Christies Beach Community Group to Facebook to share the victim’s message and warn residents in the area to be careful.

“This morning I walked into two lines on the pathway between Paul Court and Flaxmill Road near the baseball oval,” the woman said.

“Police were called to remove as there was lots, all at neck height.”

The post attracted more than 200 comments, with some neighbours relating other instances of the fishing line being tied up around the area.

Meanwhile, other users described the undetermined culprit’s actions as “sick” and “messed up”.

“This happened a while back in our street. I caught them as they were just starting to tie the line up,” one social media user commented.

“Thank you so much for making everyone aware. So, so dangerous,” another person said.

 

24-Year-Old Man Arrested and Charged with Endangering Life over Fishing Line Incident

According to police, following the investigation into the incident, on 30 July 2019, a man was arrested at Christie Downs.

The 24-year-old from Seaford was charged with three counts of acts to endanger life.

He was bailed on strict conditions and will face the Christies Beach Magistrates Court in September.

 

What the Law Says About Acts or Assaults that Cause Harm in NSW

In NSW, the law recognises various kinds of harm attracting particular criminal charges which attract serious penalties.

Perhaps the most least serious harm from an assault is considered as ‘common assault’ in NSW.

Common assault is a criminal offence in NSW which occurs if you do something that either intentionally or recklessly causes the victim fear of immediate and unlawful violence or physical force.

This type of assault can occur with or without any physical contact with a person.

The offence of common assault falls under section 61 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) which carries a maximum sentence of 2-years prison and/or $5,500 fine in court.

The next serious kind of harm that the law recognises is perhaps the criminal offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. It occurs if you assault a person to either intentionally or recklessly cause ‘actual bodily harm’ to that person.

Actual bodily harm is injury that is not necessarily permanent but is more than merely transient or trifling. It includes a bruise or scratch to the skin.

The offence of assault causing actual bodily harm in NSW is outlined in section 59 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) which carries a maximum sentence of 5-years prison if dealt with in the District Court. As this offence is usually dealt with in the Local Court, the maximum penalty a local court can impose is 2-years prison and/or $5,500 fine.

The next more serious type of harm from an assault or act recognised by the law is where either grievous bodily harm or wounding is inflicted from a person’s assault or actions, which occurs if you commit an act with the intention to cause grievous bodily harm or wounding, or where you commit an act realising the possibility that actual bodily harm would result but you commit the act anyway causing grievous bodily harm.

It is a criminal offence to assault a person occasioning grievous bodily harm or wounding in NSW. It carries maximum penalties ranging from 7-years prison to 14-years imprisonment depending on which type of this offence you are faced with, namely, section 35 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) of recklessly cause grievous bodily harm (GBH), or section 33 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) of intentionally cause GBH.

Grievous bodily harm is known under the law as ‘really serious injury’, including permanent or serious disfiguring. This can include a broken bone. It also includes grievous bodily disease such as HIV infections.

Wounding however is considered by the law as a broken skin. This includes a situation where a lip is split.

The offence of wounding or grievous bodily harm whether caused recklessly or intentionally also carries a standard non-parole period depending on the particular charge, ranging from 3-7 years.

The standard non-parole period is meant to represent the minimum period of gaol that a convicted offender is to spend inside before he/she becomes eligible to be released on a parole period in the community- only if the court assesses the offending conduct as falling in the middle range of what the law refers to as objective seriousness.

The standard non-parole period is not applied as a rule by the Judge. It’s used to guide the sentencing court at coming to a fair sentence.

The objective seriousness is assessed by considering the extent of injuries, extent of violence used, period of time the violence took place for, whether there was anything that provoked the offender to commit the crime which does not amount to an excuse, in addition to other factors of this kind.

Generally, the most serious kind of harm is death. Crimes such as assaults or acts that are committed resulting in death are considered as murder or manslaughter in NSW.

In NSW, murder and manslaughter are very serious crimes carrying very heavy penalties.

Murder, under section 18 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

While, Manslaughter, carries a maximum penalty of 25-year prison.

Contact our Sydney and Parramatta based criminal lawyers if you have a question about this topic or charge.

We offer a free first consultation with fixed fees for most cases. Call us 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.

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