Legal Analysis of Will Smith’s slap at the Oscars

The famous slap by Will Smith has been a hot topic of discussion, which exploded over social media and the news worldwide. There has been great discourse on whether the slap was staged or justified, or had the comedian overstepped his boundaries.

For anyone living under a rock, the Oscars ceremony was held on 28 March 2022, when presenter, Chris Rock, made a joke about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald hair and how he looked forward to her role in GI Jane 2. For those who didn’t know, Ms Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia, which is a medical condition that causes hair loss.

Such a remark prompted Will Smith to storm up the stage and slap comedian, Chris Rock before he returned to his seat, and swore at him twice stating “get my wife’s name out of your f**king mouth!”

Although Will Smith later went on stage to accept the Oscars for Best Actor, he apologised to everyone except Chris Rock. It was not until the following day, that a public apology had been made to Chris Rock in an Instagram post when the incident had gone viral.

He writes, “Jokes at my expense are part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologise to you, Chris. I was out of line, and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.”

The Los Angeles Police Department had issued a formal statement that it was aware of the physical altercation, but no charges were filed against Mr Smith as the victim, Chris Rock declined to press charges.

If this situation occurred in Australia, would Will Smith be held criminally liable for his conduct towards Chris Rock?

Unlike the United States, where the police will hold people liable for their criminal conduct if the alleged victim wishes to press charges, Australia files criminal charges when there is sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed.

If Will Smith’s conduct had occurred in New South Wales, he would likely be found criminally liable for common assault.

Under s61 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), a person is guilty of this offence if they assault any person, although not occasioning actual bodily harm. To establish this offence, the police must prove that a person caused another person to fear immediate and unlawful violence, or that physical contact whether intentional or reckless was made and the person did not consent. A person convicted of this offence may be liable to imprisonment for two years and/or a fine of $5,500.

The court may consider other penalties for a common assault charge such as a section 9 good behaviour bond, which is a bond with a criminal conviction. This requires a person to not commit any further offences as long as the bond is in place. Alternatively, the court may give a section 10 bond, which is now a conditional release order without conviction. If the bond is breached, a person may be required to go back to court, where a more severe penalty may be applied.

If you or anyone you know has been charged with this type of offence, you should immediately seek Legal Advice. Our experienced Criminal Defence Lawyers at KPT Defence Lawyers have significant and specialized experience in all areas of criminal law.

*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice beforetaking any course of action.*

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