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Recklessly Cause Injury

Recklessly cause injury is a charge that is often dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court. The charge is generally laid in situations where a person recklessly injures another and there has not been any serious injury caused. In this instance, the Police must show that the accused caused injury to another person which was reckless and that the accused had no lawful excuse to do so.

Jurisdictional Limits

Recklessly cause injury is an indictable offence, which means that it may be heard in the higher courts; however it can also be tried summarily in the Magistrates’ Court. The seriousness of the circumstances surrounding the charge will determine the jurisdiction where the matter is to be heard.

Generally, a stand-alone charge of recklessly cause injury is heard in the Magistrates’ Court. More aggravated offending would see it before the higher courts, particularly in situations where there is a primary offence of serious nature to which it attaches as a secondary offence. The circumstances surrounding your charges will determine which avenue is appropriate.

In terms of the sentencing range available, the Act stipulates that the offence carries a 10 year term of imprisonment as the highest possible sentence. However the maximum term of imprisonment that can be imposed in the Magistrates’ Court for a single offence is two years. Further, the maximum aggregate total sentence that can be imposed is five years.1

This offence is a medium – high ranging violent offence which does not generally carry a goal term when guilt is established in the Magistrates’ Court, provided it is a first offence that is not particularly gruesome.

The Statutory Provision for Recklessly Cause Injury

This offence is governed by section 18 of the Crimes Act 1958 (‘the Act’). It reads as follows:

  1. A person who, without lawful excuse, intentionally or recklessly causes injury to another person is guilty of an indictable offence.

The Elements

There are four elements that constitute the offence of Recklessly Cause Injury:

  1. The complainant suffered an “injury”;
    Injury is defined in section 15 of the Act as physical injury or harm to mental health whether temporary or permanent.Examples of physical injury in the Act includes unconsciousness, disfigurement, substantial pain, infection with a disease and an impairment of a bodily function.

    Examples of harm to mental health in the Act includes psychological harm but does not include an emotional reaction such as distress, grief, fear or anger unless it results in psychological harm.

  2. The accused caused the complainant’s injury;
    The injury of the complainant needs to have been caused by the accused. This element will be satisfied even if the injury was caused indirectly.2
  3. The accused was reckless about causing the injury; and
    The accused must have been aware, when he or she committed the relevant conduct, that it would probably cause injury. It is not sufficient for the accused to have been aware that injury was merely possible or might result.3 It is also not sufficient that a reasonable person in the accused’s circumstances would have realised that their conduct would be likely to injure the complainant.4
  4. The accused acted without lawful justification or excuse.
    The Prosecution must disprove any defences the accused seeks to rely on.

In a trial for Recklessly Cause Injury, the questions a judge will ask the jury to consider are:

  1. Did the complainant suffer an injury?
    (Consider – Injury means physical injury or harm to mental health, whether temporary or permanent
    Consider – Physical injury includes unconsciousness, disfigurement, substantial pain, infection with a disease, and an impairment of bodily function
    Consider – Harm to mental health includes psychological harm but does not include an emotional reaction such as distress, grief, fear, or anger unless it results in psychological harm.)
    If yes, then go to 2.
    If no, then the accused is not guilty of recklessly cause injury.
  2. Did the accused cause the complainant’s injury?
    (Consider – Were the accused’s actions a substantial or significant cause of the complainant’s injury?)
    If yes, then go to 3.
    If no, then the accused is not guilty of recklessly cause injury.
  3. Was the accused aware that his/her conduct would probably injure the complainant?
    If yes, then go to 4.
    If no, then the accused is not guilty of recklessly cause injury.
  4. Did the accused act without lawful justification or excuse?
    If yes, then the accused is guilty of recklessly cause injury (as long as you have also answered Yes to questions 1, 2 and 3).

Possible Defences to Recklessly Cause Injury

There are often arguments about the intention of the accused at element 3. That is an issue of what injury was foreseen when the fight occurred. Other defences can be ones such as a factual dispute about who was responsible for the fight, lack of intent, wrongful identification, mental impairment, necessity, or self-defence. The availability of a defence of self-defence turns on whether the force used was reasonable and proportionate in all the circumstances.

Sentencing Outcomes in the Magistrates’ Court

The Sentencing Advisory Council has released sentencing statistics for the sentencing of recklessly cause injury in the Magistrates’ Court from July 2011 to June 2014.

Over the three year period:

  • 8,233 cases were before the Court
  • 14.9% of people sentenced received a period of imprisonment
  • 13.6% received a wholly suspended period of imprisonment
  • 3.0% received a partially suspended sentence
  • 22.6% received a fine,
  • about 27.5% received some form of community based order

The most common length of imprisonment imposed was between 3 and 6 months with 27.1% of persons imprisoned sentenced within that range.

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in Victoria for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.

Sentencing Outcomes in the Higher Courts

The Sentencing Advisory Council has released sentencing statistics for the sentencing of recklessly cause injury in the County and Supreme Court’s between July 2010 and June 2015.

Over the five year period:

  • 170 people were sentenced in the higher courts for the principal offence of causing injury recklessly
  • 17% of people sentenced received a term of imprisonment
  • 9% received a wholly suspended period of imprisonment
  • 5% received a partially suspended sentence
  • 41% received a Community Corrections Order

The most common length of imprisonment imposed was 1 year.

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in the higher courts earlier than that of the Magistrates’ Court, and therefore all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 will not have this available as a sentencing option.

To view sentencing decisions by Victorian County Courts for the charge of Recklessly Cause Injury, visit this page.

Check out some of the criminal cases we’ve defended in court involving the charge of Recklessly Cause Injury:



[1]Sentencing on Magi Court website – https://www.magistratescourt.vic.gov.au/jurisdictions/criminal-and-traffic/criminal-proceedings/sentencing.
[2]R v Salisbury [1976] VR 452.
[3]R v Crabbe (1985) 156 CLR 464 cited in Criminal Charge Book, 7.4.2.3.1 – Bench Notes: Recklessly Cause Injury (1 July 2013) Judicial College of Victoria: <http://www.judicialcollege.vic.edu.au/eManuals/CCB/index.htm#46286.htm>.
[4]R v Nuri<e/m> [1990] VSCA 72 cited in Criminal Charge Book, 7.4.2.3.1 – Bench Notes: Recklessly Cause Injury (1 July 2013) Judicial College of Victoria: <http://www.judicialcollege.vic.edu.au/eManuals/CCB/index.htm#46286.htm>.