Violent behaviour

Violent behaviour

Violent behaviour is any behaviour that causes another person any injury to the body that interferes with a person’s health or comfort, or that places them in fear of being injured. The injury only has to be slight – it can include pain or bruising.

Violent behaviour is an offence and can carry very serious penalties.

If you are charged with an offence relating to violent behaviour get legal advice quickly.

You don’t have to make physical contact with someone to be charged with a violence-related offence. Placing a person in fear that you will be violent towards them can also be an offence, including:

  • threatening to harm someone
  • being physically intimidating, such as standing over someone.

It does not matter whether you intend to harm the other person or not, as long as you intend them to believe that you will.


If you commit a violent act, the crime you’re charged with will depend on:

  • the injuries suffered by the victim
  • what you meant to happen (your intention)
  • what you should have realised would happen as a result of your actions.

Common charges relating to violent behaviour include:

  • assault, including sexual assault, unlawful assault and common assault
  • affray (a violent disturbance of the peace)
  • causing injury or serious injury
  • homicide, including manslaughter and murder
  • aggravated burglary
  • robbery (theft with violence or the threat of violence)
  • threats to kill
  • threats to inflict serous injury.

Which court hears the charges depends on how serious the charge is. The Supreme Court hears cases where someone has died as a result of a violent act.


Penalties for committing acts of violence include fines, imprisonment, diversion programs, penalties that you serve in the community, such as community corrections orders or intensive correction orders, and paying compensation to your victim/s.

Can I be charged if I was with friends who committed a violent act, even if I didn’t take part in it?

It can be very hard to work out exactly what’s happened when there is a group of people involved in a violent act. Often everyone at the scene will be charged. ‘Affray’ (a violent disturbance of the peace) is a common charge in these circumstances.

Even if you can prove that you did not commit any of the actual violence, the police may still charge you with ‘acting in concert’. Acting in concert can include ‘inciting’ (encouraging) people committing a violent act, or if your presence prevents the victim getting away.

If the victim withdraws their complaint will the police drop the charges against me?

Not necessarily. The police will listen to your victim’s reasons for withdrawing the complaint against you, but once charges are laid it’s up to the police to decide whether they should be dropped. Police will usually decide based on whether there is enough evidence without your co-operation. Get legal advice.

What will the court take into account when deciding the penalty for my charge?

The court looks at a number of factors, including:

  • what you intended or what you should have realised would happen as a result of your actions
  • your police record, if you have one
  • the severity of any injuries sustained
  • whether you plead guilty
  • whether you are remorseful (sorry) about what you did
  • if you have a problem with violence, such as a history of family violence, whether you’ve been to any counselling to help you manage your violent behaviour.

Penalties for violent acts range from fines to community-based orders to imprisonment.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with criminal offences.