Unlawful Wounding

In both Queensland and New South Wales this offence requires that the “true skin” be broken by some act. It is important to remember that the wounding does need to be inflicted by an instrument. Indeed, in the New South Wales case of R v Shepherd [2003] NSWCCA 351 we were reminded that even a split lip caused by a punch is indeed wounding. 

The nature of the injury is not only important to determine if an offence has occurred, but also a matter which can determine how serious it is. For example, if the injury amounts to disfigurement it increases how serious the offending is and also moves the potential penalty up the scale of severity. If the injury amounts to “serious” disfigurement, the potential offending can move from wounding up to grievous bodily harm. 

Assessment of the injury was certainly one of the most significant matters in a case in which I was involved called R v Jones [2008] QCA 181. In this case, the victim was “glassed” by my client and had been left with very noticeable scarring on his face. When I appeared before the sentencing Judge quite a lot of the discussion involved how to account for that scarring. That Judge initially took the view that the scarring had to push the appropriate sentence up very noticeably. My view was that the scarring was not sufficient to do that. In the end, the Court of Appeal agreed with my view, and the sentence was reduced to that which I sought in the first place. 

Unlike in Queensland, the charge of wounding can be dealt with in a Local Court unless the prosecution elects to send it to a District Court. Given that the maximum penalty the Local Court can impose for this offence is 2 years imprisonment, rather than 7 years in a District Court, that sounds like a great option. But that’s not quite correct because in New South Wales the Local Court can start by declaring a sentence in excess of 2 years and then reduce it to fit inside that jurisdictional limit. This means that a brief of evidence won’t necessarily be provided in New South Wales unless a plea of not guilty is entered. This may make it very difficult for someone charged in that State with wounding to determine important matters that will invariably affect the sentence which will be imposed. For example, the degree and seriousness of the injury inflicted, and the full nature and circumstances of how it was delivered. 

These and many other matters arise for consideration when dealing with this challenging area of criminal law. And as always, I am very willing to assist anyone charged with wounding in either State to navigate all of the above issues and more in order to get exactly the outcome sought.