There are three main categories of assaults provided for in the Non Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997.
They differ in terms of seriousness. Section 2 assault which is considered a minor assault and is dealt with in the District Court. This offence carries a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment. Section 3 of the Act, is an assault causing harm, and can be tried in either the District Court, which carries a maximum sentence of twelve months imprisonment or in the Circuit Court (depending on the serious of the injuries involved) which carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment or a Section 4 assault causing serious harm offence which can only be tried on Indictment in the Circuit Court and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The Court of Appeal has set out sentencing guidelines for section 4 assaults in DPP v Mark O’Sullivan
There are a number of defences available to an accused person to successfully defend an assault charge. The most frequently used would be self defence where it is successfully argued that the degree of force used in self defence was reasonable. What will be deemed reasonable will depend on various factors depending on the particular circumstances at the time the offence was committed.
Baxter Mimnagh Solicitors recently succeeded in establishing self-defence in successfully defending before a jury an accused charged with manslaughter. Following deliberations, the jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty.