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  • Writer's pictureElias Azadzoi

Are Threats considered as Assault?

The Spectrum of Assault Offences:

1. Common Assault: Defined as the intentional or reckless infliction of physical contact, harm, or the fear of imminent harm without consent. It does not necessarily require physical injury but emphasises the mental aspect of fear.

2. Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ABH): Involves physical harm that interferes with the victim's health or comfort but falls short of being classified as grievous bodily harm.

3. Aggravated Assault: Considered "aggravated" when additional factors are present, such as the use of a weapon, multiple offenders, assault in the presence of a child, or targeting a vulnerable person.

4. Sexual Assault: Encompasses sexual activity without consent, emphasising the importance of voluntary consent.

5. Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH): A severe form of assault resulting in significant and severe injury, including wounding or causing permanent disfigurement.

Key Elements for Conviction:

1. Intention: The accused must have intentionally caused fear of harm or physical contact. Accidental actions do not constitute assault.

2. Apprehension or Physical Contact: Assault may involve bodily contact ('battery') or anticipating imminent harm or offensive contact, even if no physical contact occurs.

3. Absence of Consent: The action must be non-consensual, with limitations depending on the circumstances.

Understanding Threats to Kill:

In the realm of assault, threats to kill stand out as a distinctive and severe form. Words alone can be considered assault, showcasing the significance of mental intent. Apprehension assault, where the victim senses imminent unlawful contact, adds another layer of complexity.

Legal Consequences:

Threats to kill carry severe penalties, with a maximum imprisonment term of 10 years under section 20 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic). The severity outlines the legal system's commitment to protecting individuals from threats that can cause substantial harm or fear.

Potential Defences:

Defences against threats to kill may hinge on various factors, such as factual disputes or establishing the requisite intention or recklessness. The nuances of each case determine the defences available, requiring a thorough examination of the circumstances.


This comprehensive exploration of assault, with a specific focus on threats to kill, underscores the complexity of criminal law. Recognising the mental and physical elements involved in assault offences is pivotal for both legal practitioners and the general public. As we navigate this intricate legal terrain, it becomes evident that words, even without physical harm, can wield significant legal consequences. Understanding these dynamics empowers individuals to comprehend their rights and obligations in a legal landscape where threats can transcend mere words.


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