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Citation: Knight (1998) 35 A Crim R 314.

This information can be found in the Textbook: Brown et al, Criminal Laws: Materials and Commentary on Criminal Law and Process in New South Wales, (5th edition, Federation Press, 2011), pp. 649-51.


Background facts

  • The appellant made threatening and abusive phone calls to a police officer, a magistrate and a judge.
  • Apart from the phone calls, which were traced to the appellant at a considerable distance from the targets, there was no evidence in relation to assault charges.

Legal issues


  • Despite the threats, was there ever any danger of imminent violence? Or were they mere threats which may have been executed at any time at, if at all.
    • The court referred to Fagan v Metropolitan Commissioner of Police,[1] which defined assault as “an act which intentionally – or possibly recklessly – causes another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful personal violence,” and to Pemble,[2] where the court referred to causing a belief that force is about to be inflicted.
    • Barton v Armstrong.[3] asked the question, ‘how immediate does the fear of violence have to be?’ The answer depended on the circumstances and could include threats over the phone. The word “immediate” could be stretched to perhaps cover events in the future.
  • The court rejected the argument in Barton argument, holding that “immediate” should have a more literal interpretation. Threats need to be imminent and immediate; generalised threats of future conduct will not suffice.
  • In this case, there wasn't such an immediate connection and the conviction is therefore quashed.


  1. [1969] 1 QB 439.
  2. (1971) 124 CLR 107.
  3. [1969] 2 NSWR 454.
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