Assaults and Offences of Violence

‘Assault’ and ‘offences of violence’ are broad categories of offences which refer to the use or threatened use of force by one person against another which is not authorised, justified or excused by law, and also include manslaughter, attempted murder and murder.

There are several types of offences involving violence and they are generally distinguished by their level of severity. In determining their level of severity, regard is had primarily to the injury or injuries sustained by the victim.

Common Assault

‘Common assault’ is the least serious of all offences of violence and in fact doesn’t require any injury to actually be inflicted. All that is required to satisfy this offence is that the force applied by the offender resulted in some pain or discomfort. In fact, this offence doesn’t even require any actual physical contact to be made between the offender and the victim – simply threatening physical force can be sufficient to constitute this offence.

Serious Assault

‘Serious assault’ is an offence of common assault committed in particular circumstances as identified by law. These circumstances include where the victim is a police officer, aged 60 years or more or disabled.

Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm

‘Assault occasioning bodily harm’ occurs where the offender commits an assault which results in actual injury to the victim. Common examples of injuries are bruises, cuts or even the breaking of bones. This offence becomes aggravated if the offender commits the offence whilst in the company of one or more other persons or is armed or pretends to be armed with a weapon.


‘Wounding’ occurs where an offender causes the breaking or penetration of the skin of the victim. Common examples are stab wounds or ‘glassing’ incidents.

Grievous bodily Harm

‘Grievous bodily harm’ occurs where an offender inflicts an injury on a victim that:

  • causes serious disfigurement
  • causes the loss of a distinct part of the body or an organ
  • would have been life threatening if the victim had not been medically treated

There are several defences to charges of offences of violence and the most common defences are self-defence or provocation. Whether or not these can be raised will depend upon the factual matrix within which the offending occurs.

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