Eggboy: The Line Between Assault and Self-Defence

Seventeen-year-old William Connolly probably didn’t expect to become an internet sensation and the motivation behind a $70k fundraising effort when he smashed an egg on Senator Anning’s head on the weekend.

And yet, here we are.

Connolly was interviewed by police and released without charge earlier this week while investigations continue.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison asserted that Anning should face “the full force of the law”.

So, what does the law have to say about smashing an egg on someone’s head?

Can I crack an egg on someone’s head?

In short? No.

In NSW common assault is an offence under section 61 of the Crimes Act 1900. A person may be charged with common assault if they have intentionally or recklessly applied force to another person. They may also be charged with assault if they have intentionally or recklessly caused another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence.

Conduct that may amount to a common assault includes:

  • Kicking, punching or hitting a person
  • Spitting on a person
  • Threatening to cause harm to a person

In NSW the maximum penalty for common assault is 2 years imprisonment. However, as the incident took place in Victoria, it would be subject to the equivalent Victorian legislation and penalties.

Surely Anning is liable too?

If you’ve seen the footage, you’ll know that Anning reacts to the egging by lashing out against Connolly. Based on the definitions above, Anning’s behaviour can also be categorised as assault.

Self-defence

If Anning is charged, he may be able to rely on an argument of self-defence in relation to his first punch.

In NSW, self-defence is outlined in section 418 of the Crimes Act 1900. According to section 418, a person will not be held criminally liable for their actions if they have been carried out in self-defence.
A person’s actions may constitute self-defence if the person believes their conduct was necessary to

  • Defend themselves or another person, or
  • Prevent (or end) the unlawful deprivation of liberty, or
  • Protect property, or
  • Prevent criminal trespass However, the conduct must be a reasonable response to the circumstances as the person perceives them.

Can Anning rely on self-defence?

Possibly.

In both Victoria and NSW, once a defendant raises the argument of self-defence, the onus shifts to the prosecution to prove that the person did not act in self-defence.

It may be difficult for the prosecution to disprove self-defence with respect to Anning’s first strike; in that it is possible that the court will accept that Anning believed his response was necessary, and that it was reasonable. However, it is doubtful that the argument would succeed in relation to Anning’s subsequent strikes.

What now?

The police (so far) appear to have exercised their discretion and have chosen not to charge Connolly or Anning.

However, egging someone is definitely not a good idea (at least in the eyes of the law).

If you need advice or representation for a criminal matter please contact Hamilton Janke Lawyers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 4038 1666 (office hours) or 0422 050 502 (24/7).

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