Will Smith Slap - Would He Face Criminal Charges if it Happened in Australia?
Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars. If this happened in Australia would he have faced criminal charges?
Last week at the Hollywood Oscar’s ceremony, Will Smith slapped comedian and master of ceremonies, Chris Rock, in the face, over a joke Chris Rock made about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith’s hair.
Ms Pinkett-Smith suffers alopecia, a medical condition which causes hair loss.
Later in the evening Will Smith was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor. In his acceptance speech he apologised to everyone, except, rather notably, Chris Smith. He received a standing ovation.
Reports suggest that he was asked to leave the event by organisers but refused to do so. The Academy has since issued a statement to the effect that it could have handled the situation better and that it will be considering disciplinary action at an upcoming meeting.
Statement from the Los Angeles Police Department
The day after the Oscars the story had gone viral on the internet. It was around the the same time as Will Smith was issuing an apology to Chris Rock via Instagram.
In the same time frame the Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement saying that it was aware of the incident, that Chris Rock had declined to press charges, and the LAPD therefore would also not prosecute Mr Smith. It appears that in the some parts of the US, when dealing with less serious type offending, the police tend to only bring criminal charges if the alleged victim wants them to do so.
The situation in Australia is quite different. The police policy here tends to be to prosecute criminal charges if there is sufficient evidence which is capable of supporting a conviction.
Under Western Australian law, Will Smith’s actions would have been considered a criminal offence and it is most likely that the WA police would have prosecuted if the slap had of occurred in this state..
Common Assault – what does the law say?
Common assault is an application of force or threatened force to another without that person’s consent. This includes actions such as pushing, slapping, striking and kicking. However, touching another person may also be considered common assault if it is accompanied by intimidation or coercion or threats of violence.
Furthermore, for an assault to occur it isn’t necessary for the victim and the accused to come into physical contact. The offence may occur if there is a threatened application of force such as the throwing of an object towards the victim and the object coming into close range of the victim.
Spitting, towards another may also constitute an assault and would likely be considered serious, particularly in this day and age where the risk of transmission of disease is a serious concern.
Is Common Assault a Serious Charge?
Common Assault is a summary offence and it is dealt with in the Magistrates Court. It carries a maximum penalty of 18 months and a fine of $18,000.
An assault may be considered to be committed in circumstances of aggravation if the offence is committed in the following circumstances:
- Where the accused and the victim are in a domestic relationship
- Where a child is present at the time of the offence;
- Where the accused is subject to a violence restraining order for the benefit of the victim;
- Where the victim is not younger than 60 years;
- Where the circumstances of the offence are racially motivated.
What the Prosecution Must Prove
In order to prove that an offence of common assault has been committed the prosecution must satisfy the court beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- There has been an application of force or threatened force from the accused to the victim;
- That application of force or threatened force was executed without the victim’s consent;
- The application of force was done so intentionally or recklessly;
- The assault was not justified, authorised or excused by law.
Some possible defences to the charge of common assault include provocation or self defence, accident, and extraordinary emergency.
Toxic masculinity in the spotlight
Much of the debate over the Will Smith incident has been focused on whether the actor’s response was appropriate in the circumstances. He was, some say, standing up for his wife.
There are also those who believe that the joke itself was insulting and in extremely poor taste. But the fact of the matter is that Mr Smith could have chosen a more passive response.
Words can be much, much more effective than a ‘slap’, particularly when they are chosen wisely. Mr Smith had a worldwide audience – it was his moment to show us that men, and Hollywood too, have moved past violence, and are able to find other ways to communicate or process their emotions.
It is a moment that Will Smith would clearly regret.
In any event it has initiated an important conversation around how men express their frustrations, anger or other emotions and how they can do so, without using violence.
We Can Help
If you have been charged with a criminal offence in relation to assault and need representation from an Perth Criminal Lawyer, contact the Andrew Williams Criminal Law Offices without delay on (08) 9278 2575.
PLEASE NOTE: The material in this blog post is for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to your questions regarding this or other topics, please contact a professional legal representative.