ASSAULT OFFENCES – RINGWOOD/MAROONDAH
Crime statistics compiled by Victoria Police show that over a 12 month period in 2013/14 there were 46,912 instances of assault across Victoria. Close to 1,000 of these crimes against the person occurred in the Ringwood/Maroondah area, meaning that this area accounts for nearly 2% of the state’s crimes against the person. This may seem a relatively small proportion, but considering the Ringwood/Maroondah area has a population of around 100,000 people, compared to Victoria’s nearly 6 million, it is an alarming statistic. Coupled with an expected increase in licensed alcohol venues in the area, assault statistics are only predicted to climb.
Alcohol and assault
Links between excessive drinking and violence are clear. Instances of assault greatly increase on weekends and in the early hours of the morning around popular nightspots. Reports of alcohol-fuelled violence outside late night fast food restaurants are ever-present in the media and are a continuing concern across the state and in the Maroondah area. The introduction of more licensed venues will undoubtedly lead to more assaults if there is an insufficient police presence to deter anti-social behaviour.
Statistics on assault in the Ringwood/Maroondah Area
Between 1 July 2013 and 30 June 2014, there were 948 recorded cases of crimes against the person, the vast majority being assault offences. This is an increase of 17% from the previous year. Assault charges alone also increased by nearly 18% from the previous year. Assault excluding family violence constituted 467 offences out of the 948 recorded, up 19.1% from the previous year.
What is interesting about these statistics is that assault offences across the state in the same year only increased by 1.7%. 48.5% of assaults occurred in public areas. Of those, 20.3% occurred in streets and laneways, the type of offences commonly linked with alcohol. The contrast between the Victorian average and the Maroondah average is sobering. While assaults have decreased by 3.9% in 2013/14 across Victoria, they have only increased in the Maroondah area.
The statistics show that assault is a problem in the Ringwood/Maroondah area. In areas where assault is climbing, the courts may take a harsher stance on assault charges than usual, in an effort to deter other offenders, and stem the increase. This could mean that your assault charge in Ringwood/Maroondah may be pursued and punished more rigorously than in other Victorian suburbs.
If you have been charged with assault in the Ringwood/Maroondah area, it is vital that you seek professional legal help as soon as possible, so you can give yourself the best chance, should your matter end up in court. Contact our criminal lawyers ringwood for 24 hour advice.
In criminal law, assault is any act that intentionally causes another person to fear immediate and unlawful violence (see R v Knight). Battery is the actual application of unlawful contact to another person without that person’s consent. While it is possible to have an assault without a battery (and in very limited situations a battery without assault), they commonly occur together and ‘assault’ is used to describe both assault and battery.
Everyday contact, such as bumping against someone in a train, would not constitute an assault. However, if the bump was intentional, and excessive to the extent that it was not normal contact, it may constitute an assault offence.
In most situations where police charge someone with assault or assault with a weapon, the contact itself is undisputed by both parties. The matter tends to turn on how badly the victim was hurt, and whether the defendant intended to cause harm, or was reckless as to causing harm.
The relevant assault offences in Victorian legislation are contained mainly in sections 16-24 of the Crimes Act 1958. The penalties, if found guilty under these offences, range from level 6 imprisonment (5 years maximum) for recklessly causing injury, to level 3 imprisonment (20 years maximum) for intentionally causing serious injury.
Assault offences are in themselves serious matters which can attract harsh penalties and criminal records. And, should the victim die as a result of injuries sustained in the assault, manslaughter or murder charges may follow.
One punch laws
A spate of fatalities across the country has prompted New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Queensland to enact one punch legislation. The Victorian parliament has also recently introduced a mandatory 10 year jail sentence for one punch hits that result in death. This is not the maximum penalty, and offenders could face even longer sentences depending on the circumstances of the assault.
Section 16 of the Crimes Act prescribes that intentionally causing serious injury is an indictable offence carrying a maximum sentence of level 3 imprisonment (20 years). In this sense, it may seem that assault carries a higher penalty than one punch hit laws. However, one punch hit laws carry a minimum sentence of 10 years, while assault penalties can be much lower in many circumstances.
Further, if the Victorian laws follow NSW legislation, the prosecution may not need to show that the accused “reasonably foresaw” the possibility of causing serious injury or death even if the attack was intentional. This makes the prosecution case stronger as it takes away some of the objective intent necessary to make out the mental elements of the crime.
One punch fatalities have been a problem across the state and the country. As a result, the legislature and undoubtedly the courts are prepared to issue much heavier penalties to perpetrators. If you have been charged with assault, or may be charged under one punch laws in the Ringwood/Maroondah area, seek professional legal assistance immediately.
An experienced criminal defence lawyer may be able to raise a number of defences in your matter.
Assault cannot be made out where the alleged victim has consented to the physical contact. This is usually only a factor in sports, and even then only to some degree. In non-contact sports, and even in contact sports, if the bodily contact is outside the spirit of the game the victim may be able to press charges. Punching someone in a football game could lead to prosecution if the contact is shown to be outside the scope of what is acceptable in the normal course of a game. A professional defence lawyer may make out a valid defence in your case where consent is in question, or where everyone involved has consented to some physical contact.
You may also be able to raise a defence of self-defence. This is the most common defence raised in assault charges, especially in cases involving alcohol and verbal altercations before an assault has occurred. Where a person charged with assault acted in self-defence due to fear of immediate danger, they may escape liability. It needs to be proved they used ‘reasonable force’ to avoid personal harm.
In certain circumstances it may be held that a person has used excessive force to avoid danger. This may occur where a person is being burgled and the would-be victim attacks the burglar with an axe. This is a contentious area of the law. It is an objective test as to what constitutes reasonable force, and factors such as age, location, time and physical attributes may play a part in the assessment of reasonableness.
There are also evidentiary considerations to be made. Witness statements and CCTV footage are usually involved where possible. Certain statements and evidence may be inadmissible where improperly obtained. A criminal defence lawyer can help you in this assessment.
If you have been charged with assault, consult an experienced criminal lawyer in Ringwood today. They may be able to raise self-defence on your behalf, and you may receive reduced liability or escape conviction all together.
If you have been charged with assault, may be charged with assault, or may be charged with a crime resulting from assault, contact one of our experienced criminal lawyers today. With offices in the CBD and across Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, including Ringwood, be sure to make an appointment to see one of our professional defence lawyers at your convenience.