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Assaults - actus reus
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Can be private nature, e.g. domestic disputes or


Public character, e.g. such as fights during a political demonstration, pub brawls, deliberate beatings OR


Mixture (e.g. a stalker harasses a number of women in a neighbourhood).



Frequently, the injury is a physical one, but the victim suffers mental harm requiring psychiatric or psychological help provided the injury is more than simply panic, fear or distress;

R v Chan-Fook [1994] "Bodily harm" was held in to include psychiatric injury and also in R v Ireland [1997], R v Burstow [1997] R v Constanza [1997] and in R v Dica (2003) biological GBH  (the spreading of HIV).


Protection From Harassment Act 1997 provides both criminal and civil redress in cases of harassment. It contains two principal crimes 

1. harassment (section 2),
2. putting people in fear of violence (section 4).


Assault and Battery


An assault is any act by which someone, intentionally or recklessly, causes another person to apprehend immediate and personal violence.

Spoken words can amount to an assault R v Ireland [1997] as can silent phone calls.

Also includes:

shaking a fist at someone Stephens v Myers (1830)

showing a gun Logdon v DPP [1976]

frightened person injured escaping R v Roberts (1971)

setting a dog on R v Dume

Smith v Superintendent of Woking Police Station (1983)
D assaulted a woman at about 11 pm by peering through a window of her ground-floor bed-sitting room and thus frightening her, indicate that the element of "immediacy" of the threat is construed loosely.



Any intentional or reckless touching of another person without the consent of that person and without lawful excuse.


The concept of a "battery" covers homicide and many sexual offences down to the very minor.

Fagan v Metropolitan Police Commissioner [1969]
D accidentally drove onto a policeman's foot. Having realised that he had done this, he left the car on the foot. This was held to be an assault.

R v Venna [1976] A person committing assault or battery recklessly, only Cunningham (i.e. subjective) recklessness is sufficient for liability:

reaffirmed by the House of Lords in R v Savage [1991];  R v Parmenter [1991]

Common Assault
Section 39 Criminal Justice Act 1988

"Common assault and battery shall be summary offences and a person guilty of either of them shall be liable to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both."

CPS Code
Common Assault

grazes; scratches; abrasions; minor bruising; swellings; reddening of the skin; superficial cuts; or a "black eye".


Code for Crown Prosecutors Charging Standard - Offences Against The Person The quality of an act determines which offence is charged, so to provide consistency throughout the UK each injury is categorised in the CPS Code which can be found here.

Victim must apprehend imminent violence

Although an assault may take the form of a 'failed battery', as where D's blow fails to connect with V, assault is always a result crime.


No assault can be committed unless the threats are actually perceived by the victim.


There is no assault if a stone thrown by D flies past V's head without him noticing. If, however, D threatens V with an imitation firearm, this will indeed amount to an assault, unless V knows that the weapon cannot fire see Logdon v DPP [1976].


If V does apprehend the threat of imminent violence, it does not matter whether he is frightened by it. He may relish the opportunity to teach D a lesson, and yet still be regarded as the victim of D's assault.


Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)

Section 47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861

"Whosoever shall be convicted upon an indictment of any assault occasioning actual bodily harm shall be liable to imprisonment for not more than five years".

CPS Code
Actual bodily harm

loss or breaking of a tooth or teeth; temporary loss of sensory functions (which may include loss of consciousness); extensive or multiple bruising; displaced broken nose; minor fractures; minor, but not very superficial, cuts of a sort probably requiring medical treatment (e.g. stitches); or psychiatric injury which is more than fear.


Wounding and Grievous Bodily Harm Sec 20

Section 20 Offences Against the Person Act 1861

"Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously wound or inflict any grievous bodily harm upon any other person, either with or without any weapon or instrument shall be guilty of (an offence) and being convicted thereof shall be liable to imprisonment (for a maximum of five years)."

CPS Code
Grievous bodily harm
injury resulting in permanent disability or permanent loss of sensory function; injury which results in more than minor permanent, visible disfigurement; broken or displaced limbs or bones, including fractured skull, compound fractures, broken cheek bone, jaw, ribs etc; injuries which cause substantial loss of blood, usually necessitating a transfusion; and injuries resulting in lengthy treatment or incapacity.

Wounding and GBH entail serious harm but the injury need not be life-threatening, nor need it be intended as such.

CPS Code

In law wounds require a breaking of the continuity of the whole of the outer skin, or inner skin within the cheek or lip. Rupture of internal blood vessels is excluded. Minor wounds should not result in a section 20 charge.

Moriarty v Brookes (1834) requires a wound which is breaking both layers of the skin or "grievous bodily harm".

DPP v Smith [1961] "grievous means no more and no less than 'really serious'",

R v Saunders [1985] the word "seriously" could safely be omitted,

R v Janjua (1998); R v Choudhury (1998) the trial judge should decide whether or not to include "really"

R v Brown & Stratton [1998]

whether the injury amounts to grievous or merely actual bodily harm is to be judged objectively according to the standards of ordinary usage and experience.


Grievous Bodily Harm with intent
Sections 18

Section18:  "Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously by any means whatsoever wound or cause any grievous bodily harm to any person with intent to do some grievous bodily harm to any person or with intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainer of any person, shall be guilty of an offence, and being convicted thereof shall be liable to imprisonment for life"


There are four offences under this section:

(a) Wound or (b) cause any grievous bodily harm to any person

with intent to do some grievous bodily harm to any person


or with intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainer of any person ...

CPS Code
Section 18

The greater mens rea requirement in section 18 means that it should be reserved for the more serious cases, as where there is:
a repeated or planned attack; deliberate selection of a weapon or adaptation of an article to cause injury, such as breaking a glass before an attack; making prior threats; or using an offensive weapon against, or kicking, the victim's head.


Note also that the ulterior intent in section 18 may consist of an intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainer of any person, and in these cases there must obviously be evidence of such an intent.


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