Law and Hoarder: The Viral Results of Aisle Assaults

As a result of the Novel Coronavirus Virus (COVID-19), supermarket shelves across the country have been stripped due to panic buying. This panic was made even more evident following an altercation in which three women engaged in a fight in a Woolworths supermarket over toilet rolls. The trio were filmed grabbing each other, exchanging blows, then blaming each other for starting the altercation. Police have reported that two of the women have been charged with Affray in relation to the incident.


Affray is an offence under Section 93C of the Crimes Act 1900. ‘Affray’ is defined as “a person who uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another, and whose conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his or her safety…”.

What this means is that a person can be charged if they use physical force, such as punching, pushing or kicking, against another person. However, these actions must be serious enough to cause a bystander to be scared of being injured or harmed.

It is important to note that for affray to be proven, a third person does not need to be present, it is enough for the prosecution to prove that if a person had been there, they would have been afraid for their safety.

Affray carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

What is the difference between affray and assault?

Whilst both offences usually involve some form of physical violence, affray is considered an offence against the public order whereas assault charges are considered offences against an individual. Affray can be made out without the need to prove the actual victim, the absence of consent and any injuries the sustained during an altercation.

Common Assault

Common Assault is an offence under Section 61 of the Crimes Act 1900. To establish this offence, it must be proven that:

  1. You caused another person to fear immediate and unlawful violence, or you made physical contact with another person; and
  2. The other person did not consent; and
  3. Your actions were intentional or reckless.

It is important to note that for an assault to occur, any physical conduct must be outside the ‘exigencies’ (activities) of everyday life, such as the jostling that occurs in crowded places or touching a person to engage their attention.

Additionally, an assault can be committed without touching another person. The use of words alone can, in certain circumstances, also amount to an assault. For example, where threats are made over the phone.

Common assault carries a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison and/or a fine of $5,500.

Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm

Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm is an offence under Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1900. To be convicted of this offence, it must be proven that:

  1. You acted in a way that caused another person to fear immediate and unlawful personal violence or that you touched another person without their consent; and
  2. The other person did not consent to your actions; and
  3. You acted intentionally or recklessly; and
  4. You did not have a lawful excuse for your action; and
  5. You caused some kind of physical injury that is more than merely ‘transient or trifling.’

Examples of Actual Bodily Harm include a ‘black eye,’ a deep scratch, lasting bruises or even a psychiatric condition.

The type of penalty that you will receive depends on the court that your matter is heard in. If it is heard in the Local Court, the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment, and/or a $5,500 fine. However, if your matter is heard in the District Court the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment.

If you, or someone you know, has been charged with a criminal offence and needs advice or representation, please contact the team at Hamilton Janke Lawyer 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 4038 1666.

Written By
James Janke
James Janke

James Janke is founding partner at Hamilton Janke Lawyers, and has more then decade of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. Admitted to both the Supreme Court of New South Wales and High Court of Australia

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