Assault and Family Violence Offences
At ActiveLegal we understand that the situations in which offending allegedly occur will not always be as black and white as the police might make them out to be. With this understanding, we have been able to achieve successful outcomes for clients who have faced charges such as common assault, assault with a weapon, male assaults female, wilful damage and more.
Violence offences against another have a hierarchy of seriousness starting with common assault, through to such others as male assaults female, assault with intent to injure, wounding with intent and beyond.
Though the situations in which these charges arise will vary from case to case, we provide some fundamental information on them below, to help you better understand the situation in which you may have found yourself.
‘Common Assault’ (i.e. basic, simple assault) is often misunderstood. Many consider it to involve a violent act against another when in fact the force applied does not even need to be “violent” and in some cases involves no physical contact at all!
An assault can simply be a threatening gesture from one person toward another and if the individual against whom the gesture is directed believes that that gesture can be carried out, then the defendant may well be charged with common assault.
Depending on the legislation under which the defendant is charged there are one of two maximum sentences that can be imposed by the court:
- If charged under the Summary Offences Act 1981, ‘common assault’ has a maximum sentence of up to six months in prison or a fine not exceeding $4,000.
- If charged under the Crimes Act 1961, ‘common assault’ has a maximum prison sentence of up to one year. An alleged assault that is charged under the Crimes Act is typically regarded by the police as being more serious than an assault that might attract a charge under the Summary Offences Act.
Assault with Intent to Injure
Assault with intent to injure is a more serious charge than common assault. Here the defendant must have intended to cause harm to the victim. As an example, only a slap (as opposed to a punch) may display the defendant’s concern not to cause harm and thus be properly regarded as merely common assault rather than assault with intent to injure.
Though the injury doesn’t need to be severe to justify a charge of assault with intent to injure, it must be more than a merely temporary injury, like minor bruising.
The maximum penalty that you can face for this charge is a prison term not exceeding three years.
Aggravated assault is an assault against another person which occurs during the commission of another imprisonable offence (or an assault upon an officer in the lawful execution of his duty or someone helping that officer). An example of an aggravated assault would be where a bystander attempts to stop a burglar carrying out a burglary and while doing so the bystander is deliberately knocked to the ground by the burglar. The burglar will then be in the gun for burglary and aggravated assault.
The maximum penalty that a person can face for aggravated assault is a prison term not exceeding three years.
Wounding with Intent
Wounding with intent can be constituted by:
A. Wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm;
B. Wounding with reckless disregard for the safety of others; or
C. Wounding with intent to injure.
With wounding offences, a “wound” refers to the rupture of internal membranes or external breakage of skin tissue, which ruptures or breakages usually result in bleeding. This is to be distinguished from a broken bone, bruising or scratches which are considered “injuries”, rather than “wounds”.
The first two offences (A. or B.) carry a maximum possible sentence of fourteen years imprisonment and wounding with intent to injure (C.) seven years. The later offence (C.) carries a lesser sentence since an offender does not actually have to intend to wound the victim but rather only intend to cause injury, though a wound was then actually inflicted.
Family Violence (A.K.A. Domestic Violence) Offences
Unfortunately, a large portion of assault cases in New Zealand occur within the home. Though these fall under the title of “family violence”, “family” has a very extended definition, so such offences can occur between:
- husbands and wives
- civil union partners
- de facto (living together) partners
- biological parents
- blood relatives
- other people related through marriage, civil union, de facto relationships or adoptions
- members of the same extended family or other culturally recognised family group
- flatmates or other people who live in the same house or flat
- people in a close personal relationship who don’t live together
- people in care/carer relationships if it’s also a close personal relationship
Assault within the domestic setting can bring about charges of:
- Assault on a child, or by a male on a female, commonly known as, “male assaults female” (carrying a maximum of two years in prison), or
- Assault on a person in a family relationship (again with a maximum sentence of two years in prison)
Assault upon a family member involves the same scale of offence that would otherwise justify a charge of common assault but with the added ingredient that the victim is in the class of persons in the above list.
Breaching Protection Orders
Cases that allegedly involve domestic violence, not uncommonly involve the alleged victim also having granted to her/him a ‘protection order’. These orders are designed to give the alleged victim some added safety. Protection orders can also unfortunately, be easy for the respondent (the alleged ‘victimiser’) to breach. It is an offence under the Family Violence Act to breach a protection order. The maximum penalty for a breach of a protection order is a prison sentence not exceeding three years.
However, not every breach will result in something as extreme as a prison sentence (or even a conviction). With this offence there must be knowledge of and an intention to breach the protection order. Furthermore, it is possible to defend this charge where there has been a reasonable excuse for breaching the order.
We understand that there are a wide range of circumstances in which the breach of a protection order can allegedly occur (whether intentional or not) and we can help make sure that your version of events is heard. We have achieved success for our clients who have found themselves facing this charge. If you are charged with breach of a protection order, then please call us. We are here to help.
And better than facing a charge of breaching a protection order, is to get rid of the order altogether. We have successfully helped our clients discharge protection orders, so that they are no longer around to be breached.
In an application to discharge a protection order, the court must take into account a long list of factors and be satisfied that the protection order is no longer necessary for the protection of the person or persons whom the order benefits.
If you are subject to a protection order and wish to have it removed, then please call us today and we can help you through this process.
Strangulation or Suffocation
With this offence, it must be shown that the defendant’s acts “impeded” the victim’s normal breathing and/or circulation, but it is not necessary for the police to show that harm or injury — such as bruising, loss of consciousness or lasting psychological damage — resulted. Further, this offence requires proof that the defendant either intended to impede the victim’s breathing and/or circulation or was at least reckless as to this possibility. Accordingly a defendant who deliberately or recklessly applies pressure to another person’s throat or neck, for example, without realising that it will or may impede their breathing or circulation will escape liability. Consistent with principle, consent (as might be involved for example in some sporting or sexual activities) will provide a complete defence unless (according to one reported court case), in the particular circumstances, “there are good policy reasons to forbid it”. Strangulation or suffocation has a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
It is not uncommon for a wilful damage charge to accompany family violence or other assault charges, particularly in the domestic setting. This charge arises when a person damages any property which he or she may not own or if the damage is to property they “own”, they do it knowing it will cause loss or deprive another person of their interest in that property. A wilful damage charge can carry with it up to three months in prison or a fine not exceeding $2,000.
Lastly on Family Violence Cases …
In family violence cases there’s always more to the story than that which is initially alleged by the police. We can help present your side of the story and assist you through a very difficult process potentially involving appearances before a specialist family violence court, protection orders, Family Court proceedings and bail hearings.
If you are charged with any of the above offences, or an offence akin to these, you should get the best defence possible. We will help you achieve the best outcome. Call us today.