If you have been charged with common assault, the maximum penalties for assault are set out in legislation, but the actual sentence that you get will be influenced by a lot of factors.
According to the law, common assault is the least serious of the assault charges..
If you are guilty, the offence is punishable by up to two years in jail but when you come before a magistrate there is a whole range of factors that will come into play when determining your sentence.
Jail time is not the only punishment you may receive: courts may also issue fines, good behaviour bonds or community service orders.
If you plan on pleading guilty to assault, writing an apology letter to the judge is a good idea.
It shows initiative, that you take responsibility for your actions, that you are sorry and that you are unlikely to do the same thing in the future.
Magistrates have a degree of discretion when handing down a sentence so impressing them with the right attitude is definitely a factor that will act in your favour.
Taking responsibility for your actions, and showing remorse are two things specifically pointed out in legislation that magistrates can take into account when sentencing you.
Make it easy for them to look on you favourably by making your responsibility and feelings of remorse clear.
Your likelihood to reoffend will also be considered.
If a magistrate believes you have already learnt your lesson, they are more likely to deal leniently with you.
What can an apology letter achieve?
A good apology letter increases the chances that you will receive a lighter sentence.
This basically allows you to avoid a criminal conviction even though you are guilty of the offence.
Sometimes a good behaviour bond may be attached to the ‘non conviction order’.
Another lighter sentence is where you do get a conviction but no other penalty.
This is called a section 10A.
Alternatively, you may receive a fine, a good behaviour bond with a conviction (also called a ‘section 9 bond’), a community service order or a ‘suspended prison sentence’ (also called a ‘section 12 bond’).
The circumstances in which the assault took place will also have an impact on how the judge decides your case.
A long criminal history, or the victim of your assault who was a police officer, emergency services worker or someone vulnerable like a child or someone with a disability, are examples of aggravating factors that a judge may take into consideration when deciding your sentence.
For a full list, click here to read all aggravating and mitigating factors that are considered when the court decides on a sentence.
Tips for writing a good apology letter:
- Tell the magistrate that you have learnt from your mistake and are going to change your behaviour from now on so you won’t get into trouble in the future
- Talk about any steps you have taken to ensure that you do not engage in similar conduct in the future eg anger management counselling
- Show remorse for your actions, and if you have taken any steps to make reparations to the assault victim mention this too
- Accept full responsibility for your actions
- Be sincere and honest in your letter
If you don’t have a lawyer, an apology letter can be the perfect chance for you to thoughtfully present your case in the best way you can, without the fear of nerves kicking-in when you’re standing before the magistrate.
The individual circumstances of your offence will ultimately play a significant role in the penalty you receive.
But your apology letter to the judge can give you an extra advantage in the courtroom and increase your chances of the magistrate or judge dealing with your case leniently.
It could even help you avoid a conviction altogether.