Common Assault Laws, Penalties and Defences in NSW


It is reported that a New Zealand teacher has punched a school kid in the face after the child told him that he wore his moustache “like a paedophile would”.

As the 13-year-old student watched the teacher playing a game of rugby at a college in 2018, the child allegedly made this comment as the teacher was coming off the rugby field.

It is further reported that, in response to the student’s remarks, the NZ teacher replied asking the student if he “wanted a smack in the face”.

The 13-year-old replied, “Yes, right here”.

The teacher then proceeded to punch the 13-year-old right in the face before saying, “you’re not laughing now”.

The teacher ended up facing an assault charge and referred to NZ’s Teaching Council Disciplinary Tribunal (‘the Tribunal’).

The teacher provided the Tribunal with a statement outlining his feelings of frustration and feeling upset in response to the boy’s attitude and comments by way of an explanation.

The Tribunal said, “Punching a child’s head is a very serious matter…Behaviour was totally unacceptable and set a very poor example to the student, not to mention that it could have had some very serious physical consequences for the boy.”

The Tribunal effectively formally reprimanded the teacher by expressing disapproval of his behaviour and a fine of $3,397.52, without further punishment.

The teacher wrote an apology letter to the student almost immediately afterwards expressing his remorse and regret for his behaviour.

The student suffered redness and soreness to his right cheek as a result.

The tribunal further said, “He was not able to present the letter or express his regret directly to the student, as he was told to stay away from the school; and the student did not take part in the restorative process.”

“As part of the diversion contract plan he made a donation of $500 to charities and provided evidence of counselling sessions aimed at assisting him to cope with legal proceedings and assisting him to recognise and more helpfully respond to painful emotions including depression, anxiety and anger”.

The names of the student and teacher have been supressed.

Common Assault Laws, Penalties and Defences in NSW

In NSW, common assault is one of the lowest types of assaults against a person.

Common assault occurs when one person does or says something intentionally or recklessly to another person causing that person to fear either immediate and unlawful violence or force.

Common assault can therefore be physical or non-physical conduct. When physical force is applied against another person, generally the court’s consider it more serious.

How can a person recklessly commit a common assault? This is when a person commits a common assault to another person in one of the following ways:

  1. Physical force: where he/she causes unlawful force with the realisation that it will cause such an unlawful force.
  2. Non-physical common assault: where he/she causes another person to fear immediate and unlawful violence without physical force with the realisation that it may cause the person to fear this.

What’s the maximum penalty for this offence in NSW? The maximum penalty for common assault that a court can impose is two-years imprisonment or $5,500, or both according to section 61 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

The court’s treat domestic violence assaults especially seriously.

Domestic violence offences occur in situations, such as partner, child, family or someone you live with or previously lived with.

A domestic violence offender can still receive a section 10 non-conviction sentence result even after pleading guilty to a domestic violent assault in court.

However, the laws now also require a court to consider imposing imprisonment to domestic violence offenders in NSW, prescribed by section 4A Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW).

What are some defences to common assault? Defences to common assault in NSW include any one or more of the following:

  1. Self-defence.
  2. Where the alleged physical contact occurred due to the inevitable contingencies of everyday life or it’s accepted generally by the community.
  3. Where the alleged assault is non-physical, and the alleged victim was unaware of your alleged assault.
  4. Lawful correction of your child.
  5. Alleged assault occurred in circumstances you were exercising a citizen’s arrest.
  6. Duress or necessity.
  7. Mental illness defences. This is where you couldn’t control your actions or could not form the requisite intention to commit the crime due to a recognised mental illness under the law.

Want more information on assault charges in NSW? Call our team 24/7 to arrange a consultation for free today. Our criminal lawyers are based in Sydney and appear across all courts, specialising in serious crime.

This article has been written by our own in-house assault lawyer Sydney team.

About Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Leading Criminal Lawyers in Sydney, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Criminal Courts.

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