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The offence of indecent assault is embodied in Section 61L of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which provides:

“Any person who assaults another person and, at the time of, or immediately before or after, the assault, commits an act of indecency or in the presence of the other person, is liable to imprisonment for 5 years.”


Criminal lawyers in Sydney explain that the Crown must successfully prove beyond reasonable doubt the following elements regarding indecent assault:

The Accused Assaulted The Complainant

To constitute an indecent assault, there must first be an assault. The Crown may satisfy this element by providing evidence that the defendant intentionally or recklessly applied physical contact against the complainant’s person or voluntarily caused the complainant to fear imminent and unlawful physical harm.

Mere inactivity by the accused however cannot constitute an assault. For example, if the accused invites a child to touch his/her genital area, an indecent assault is not committed (Director of Public Prosecutions v Rogers [1953] 2 All ER 644). In such cases, the accused may be convicted of being a party to an act of indecency with a young person (Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) ss 61N, 61O).

The Assault Was “Indecent”

In order for an assault to be classified as “indecent”, the Crown must prove the existence of a sexual connotation or an intention to obtain sexual gratification. A sexual connotation may involve the defendant using his/her body for sexual gratification or touching or threatening to touch a part of the complainant’s body. For example, kissing a girl against her will (accompanied by an indecent suggestion), touching a female’s breasts or the genitals of a male are enough to give rise to an indecent assault charge.

In determining whether the assault was “indecent”, the Court will interpret the act in accordance with the ordinary standards of morality of “respectable people” within the community rather than simply the standards of an “ordinary person”. Moreover, the Court must also be informed of considerable objective and subjective circumstances, which include: the defendant’s words or conduct, the ages of the accused and the victim, and the existence of a relationship.

The Assault Was Without The Alleged Victim’s Consent

The statutory definition of consent provided in section 61HA of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) does not extend to the offence of indecent assault. The Prosecution must prove that the defendant touched or threatened the complainant without his/her conscious and voluntary permission (consent can be communicated through conduct or words). It is important to note that notwithstanding a child’s acquiescence in the actions of the accused, consent is not a defence when the child is under 16 years.

The Accused Knew Or Was Recklessly Indifferent To The Possibility That The Complainant Was NOT Consenting

This element is concerned with the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the assault and will involve an analysis of the surrounding circumstances.

The Crown can prove this element in the following two ways:

  • The defendant had actual knowledge or was aware of the possibility that the complainant was not providing his/her voluntary and conscious consent; or

  • The defendant was reckless and did not appreciate the risk that the complainant was not consenting to the indecent assault.

Enough doubt can be raised if the defendant honestly, though wrongly, believed that the complainant was consenting. However, self-induced intoxication at the time of the relevant conduct cannot be considered, as an indecent assault charge is not an offence of specific intent.


An indecent assault charge is a Table 2 offence whereby the Prosecution can elect to have the matter heard in the District or Local Court.

The penalties for a successfully proven indecent assault charge include:

  • A maximum fine of $5,500.00, and/or a maximum term of imprisonment of 2 years if the matter is heard in the Local Court; or

  • A maximum of 5 years imprisonment if heard in the District Court.

  • Suspended Sentence: A suspended sentence under section 12 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW) (CSPA) involves the imposition of a custodial sentence (being not more than 2 years) on the condition that you are subject to a good behaviour bond.

  • Community Service: The Court may make a community service order under section 8(1) of the CSPA directing you to perform community service for a specified number of hours (maximum of 500 hours). For a magistrate to determine whether you are a suitable person for a community service order, a report must be prepared by the probation and parole service.

  • Good Behaviour Bond: A good behaviour bond under section 9(1) of the CSPA enables the Court to make an order directing you to enter into a good behaviour bond for a period of up to 5 years. The magistrate may impose a number of conditions that he/she thinks are appropriate and reasonable to your case (must be strictly complied with).

  • Dismissal of charges and conditional discharge—also known as a ‘Section 10’.

If you have been charged with indecent assault or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced criminal defence lawyers on 1800 395 342.