Much has been said of a recent attack on Andrew Bolt outside a Melbourne book launch. The attack is alleged to have involved the throwing of “a sticky liquid with glitter and dye” at Bolt.
Commentators have been quick to denounce the actions of the attackers and to show support for Bolt, irrespective of their social or political leanings. Unsurprisingly, Bolt himself has been a fervent contributor to the discussions across various media.
To the ire of Bolt, some have taken a strict legalistic approach and described the attack as “an alleged assault”. Technically speaking, “an assault” is a criminal offence which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, and until such time, the act(s) in question must remain that of “an alleged assault”. Victoria Police have been equally conscientious in their communications, referring only to alleged facts. Semantics aside, the CCTV footage appears to provide compelling support for Bolt’s story and particularly that the attack was unprovoked.
Bolt is entitled to feel angry; he is a victim.
One frustration voiced by Bolt is that the attack on him was no different to that upon Alan Joyce. Bolt makes this statement in the context of the difference he perceived in the media coverage of both attacks. However, there is a clear distinction between the two attacks – Alan Joyce did not respond to his attacker with violence; Bolt did.
The CCTV footage shows that Bolt responded to the attack with a series of punches. Bolt could not have known the composition of the substances thrown at him, and it seems reasonable to conclude that he was in fear of further harm. His actions were therefore a reasonably proportionate response to the threat i.e. he acted in self-defence. To the writer’s astonishment, however, Bolt boasts that he did punch an attacker which resulted in “a bruise on the left side of his face and another bruise between his legs”. Bolt has gone on to repeat these admissions, leaving him perilously teetering on the edge of self-incrimination.
So could there be any criminality in Bolt’s actions? Let’s consider the possibility that one or more of Bolt’s punches results in serious injury or death to the attacker. We know two things from the tragic case of Victorian teenager Patrick Cronin: a single punch can kill, and the resulting injury or death may occur several days later. In that case, the young man went home after being punched and initially only complained of a headache; he died several days later. As Bolt’s attacker remains at large, and although unlikely, we can only hope he has not suffered a similar fate.
If Bolt had landed a single punch or strike causing death to his attacker, his only defence would be that he acted in self-defence. When asked about his behaviour, Bolt stated that his actions were “sort of rehearsed”, that he was “not panicking or anything like that” and that it was “like it was a script”. He also stated “I don’t really fight nice if I’m pushed too far”. To contrast his state of mind, Bolt further proclaimed “but of course my wife is beside herself”.
Without the defence of self-defence, it could then be argued that Bolt unjustifiably attacked his attackers. In the hypothetical of serious injury or death of an attacker, Bolt could plausibly be charged with serious indictable offences including murder, manslaughter, causing serious injury recklessly, or causing injury intentionally or recklessly, all of which are punishable upon conviction with lengthy terms of imprisonment.
Some of Bolt’s earlier reports of this matter have been troubling. While his frustration is perfectly defensible, his request that anyone with relevant information also provide it to his private email address, is not. An astute advocate could later argue that evidence in this case had been collected illegally and should be deemed inadmissible; the attacker could then walk free. It is simply inappropriate for anyone outside law enforcement to interfere with a criminal investigation.
The writer respectfully recommends that Bolt invoke his right to silence and defer exclusively to Victoria Police to ensure the proper administration of justice.