Assault, sexual assault and stalking

These are classed as offences against the person and are considered very serious crimes.


All forms of assault involve causing physical or mental harm to another person. This may include striking, touching, moving, or applying force of any kind to a person without their consent. You do not have to hit someone to be charged with assault; pushing or just threatening them can still be classed as assault.

Different types of assault have different penalties depending on the seriousness. The more serious the assault and or injuries to the victim, the more severe the penalty that may be imposed.

Common assault

Common assault is the most frequent assault charge for minor assault matters heard in Queensland courts. It may result from a person being threatened or receiving minor injuries as a result of a dispute. For example, you could be charged with common assault if you get into a late-night scuffle at a hotel, even if no one is seriously harmed.

The maximum penalty for common assault is 3 years in prison.

Assault causing bodily harm

This more serious form of assault is when the person attacked suffers injuries which interfere with their health or comfort (i.e. they need hospital treatment or time off work as a result of the attack).

The maximum sentence for assault occasioning bodily harm is 7 years in jail however, if there is aggravation involved in the assault—for example the offender has a weapon, pretends to have a weapon or the assault is made by more than one person—the maximum sentence increases to 10 years.

Dangerous operation of a vehicle

This offence is when a person drives a vehicle dangerously. Greater penalties are applied where the dangerous driving has killed another person. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison. The penalty increases to 14 years if the offender is affected by drugs or alcohol, is excessively speeding or leaves the scene of the incident.

Unlawful wounding and grievous bodily harm

Wounding is breaking or penetrating the skin, which usually results in bleeding. Like assault causing bodily harm, it carries a sentence of up to 7 years in jail.

Grievous bodily harm is a very serious form of assault where the person attacked receives:

  • a loss of a distinct part of an organ
  • serious disfigurement
  • any injury that if left untreated would endanger the person’s life or cause a permanent injury or ill-health.

If you commit grievous bodily harm you can be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison.

Rape and sexual assault

Sexual assault is when a person:

  • touches you inappropriately without your consent—groping is a form of sexual assault
  • forces you against your will to commit an act of gross indecency—a sexual act that does not involve penetration, for example a person forces you to touch their genitals
  • forces you to see an act of gross indecency, for example the person masturbates in front of you.

The maximum penalty for sexual assault is 10 years in prison unless there is aggravation—a weapon is used or more than one person is involved in the assault—in which case the maximum penalty is 14 years in prison.


Rape is the most serious form of sexual assault, forcing someone to have sexual intercourse without their consent. However, forcing someone to perform oral sex also constitutes rape as does digital penetration and inserting any object into the vulva, vagina or anus of another person without their consent.

Rape is considered a very serious offence and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

For sexual intercourse not to be rape consent must be freely and voluntarily given by a person with the cognitive capacity to do so. Therefore if a person has sexual intercourse while the other person is asleep, unconscious or their cognitive capacity is impaired by drugs or alcohol, it still constitutes rape.

Sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 12 is rape as a child is not capable of giving consent. Someone who has sexual intercourse with a child may also be charged with other serious sexual offences such as indecent treatment of a child, unlawful carnal knowledge and maintaining a sexual relationship with a child.

See how to get help if you have been sexually abused or assaulted.

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Queensland was the first state in Australia to have anti-stalking legislation. The laws were introduced in 1993.

Stalking is paying someone unwanted attention that frightens them, causes them mental harm, makes them believe they or their property are in danger, or prevents them from going freely about their daily life.

You may be stalking someone if you:

  • follow them
  • loiter—hang around—near where they work, live, or a place they regularly visit such as a gym or local shops
  • repeatedly contact them by post, phone, email, SMS or social media such as Twitter or Facebook
  • send unwanted gifts to their home or work
  • give them offensive material or messages, or leave it where it will be found, for example on their doorstep or car windscreen
  • intimidate or harass them
  • threaten or commit acts of violence against them.

It can be classed as stalking even if the incident only happens once.

The maximum penalty for stalking is 5 years in jail. However if the stalking includes aggravation—such as threats of violence or carrying a weapon—the maximum penalty is 7 years.

If you are being stalked

Contact your local police station if you believe you are being stalked.

It is useful to have some evidence to back up your claim, so keep a record of the stalker’s details and actions. You should record:

  • their vehicle details including the registration number, colour, make and condition
  • streets and places where you see the stalker loitering, following or watching you
  • phone numbers used by the stalker
  • a description of the incidents—what happened—including dates and times.

You should also save any text messages sent by the stalker to your mobile phone and any messages or letters they send or leave for you.

Get help and advice if you think you are being stalked.

Call Policelink 131 444

Use this form to report suspicious activity to the Police if you feel uneasy about someone you see or what they are doing.