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Reckless wounding

In the Australian Capital Territory, wounding is a form of assault that is similar to inflicting actual bodily harm. Section 21 of the Crime Act makes wounding punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years. The maximum sentence increases to 7 years if the accused wounded a pregnant woman, knowing she was pregnant, and caused serious harm to the pregnancy.

The offence of wounding requires proof that the accused:

  • intentionally
  • wounded
  • another person.

State of mind

The offence of wounding requires proof that the accused intended to wound another person. Recklessly, accidentally, or negligently inflicting a wound on another person does not establish the offence.

It is not necessary to prove that the accused intended to inflict the specific wound that his or her actions caused. The offence can be established by evidence that the accused intended to engage in conduct that would foreseeably cause some sort of wound.

Wound

A would is a serious cut. It has been described as “a break in the continuity of the skin” or as “cutting the interior layer” (the dermis) of the skin. A scrape, scratch, or superficial cut (like a paper cut) is not a wound. Courts have also concluded that an internal rupture of blood vessels is not a wound.

Comparison with other offences

In some states, the offence of wounding carries a much longer maximum sentence. In those states, wounding is viewed as comparable to offences that intentionally cause grievous bodily harm.

In the ACT, however, wounding is comparable to the offence of inflicting actual bodily harm or assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Both of those offences carry the same maximum sentence as wounding.

Since a wound is a form of bodily harm, prosecutors in the ACT are more likely to charge the offence of inflicting actual bodily harm or assault occasioning bodily harm than a charge of wounding. It is easier to prove an intent to cause some form of bodily harm than it is to prove a specific intent to wound.

The other offences also give prosecutors the option of seeking a conviction by proving that the accused acted recklessly, without forming a specific intent to cause harm. The advantages to the prosecution of charging the offence of inflicting actual bodily harm or assault occasioning bodily harm make wounding an offence that is less likely to be prosecuted in the ACT.

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