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Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person PDF Print E-mail

Assault


Definition: The Defendant commits an assault where he intentionally or recklessly causes the Victim to apprehend immediate unlawful personal violence.

Actus Reus: requires that there be some conduct on the part of the Defendant that causes the Victim to apprehend immediate unlawful personal violence. In Meade and Belt it was held that words alone will not suffice and that conduct required a physical act or gesture. But then in Ireland; Burstow the Defendantís silence (silent phone calls) were held to amount to conduct. The case also confirms that mere words alone will amount to conduct as well. A similar position was taken in R v. Constanza (letters).

However, the Victim must apprehend immediate unlawful personal violence (such as a battery). There will be no apprehension where words negate any threat of violence: Tuberville v. Savage (the Defendant placing his hand on his sword said, Ďif it was not for assizes, I would not take such language from youí). However, a conditional assault will suffice: Read v. Coker (rolling up their sleeves and then threatening to break the Victimís neck if he did not leave the premises).

There is no requirement that the Victim is put in fear nor does the prosecution have to prove that the Victim could have suffered actual personal violence, for example where the Defendant had no means of carrying out the threat (unloaded or imitation gun).

A lenient view of immediacy has been taken in Lewis (uttering threats from another room), Logdon v. DPP and Smith v. Superintendent of Woking Police Station (the Defendant with intent to frighten the Victim, looked at the Victim who was in her nightclothes through her bedroom window). In R v. Ireland it was held that the test is subjective; it will be a question of fact whether the Victim apprehended immediate violence taking into account the characteristics of the Victim.

The Victimís apprehension of immediate unlawful personal violence must have been caused by Defendantís conduct. There must be causation in fact and law. In relation to causation in law there must be a culpable act that must be substantial and operative and there must be an unbroken chain.

Mens Rea: In relation to Mens Rea, the Defendant must have either intended (direct or oblique) or been reckless to causing the assault: Venna. Recklessness here has a subjective meaning: Savage; Parmenter namely that the Defendant was aware of the risk of causing the Victim to apprehend immediate unlawful personal violence (by his conduct). In case of jokes did the Defendant believe that there was a risk that the Victim would take him seriously?

Points: Assault and battery cannot be committed by omissions. Exception: Faganís case where actus reus was held to be a continuing act. Where the Defendant creates a dangerous situation and fails to do anything to stop harm being suffered it will be treated as a positive act. There can be no attempt to commit assault or battery. Assault is a common law offence but s. 39 Criminal Justice Act 1988 provides the mode of trial and penalty.

Battery


Definition: The Defendant commits battery where he actually inflicts unlawful force upon another person with the appropriate Mens Rea: Collins v. Wilcock.

Actus Reus: involves the infliction of unlawful force upon another. Any unlawful touching can constitute a battery, however slight: Cole v. Turner. No physical harm needs result from the force. But where minor harm does occur which is insufficient to amount to actual bodily harm, such as grazes, scratches, minor bruising, reddening of the skin or a black eye, a battery will be a more appropriate charge. Some contact with the Victim is required: Ireland; Burstow, although an indirect use of force will suffice as illustrated in R v. Martin (calling fire in a theatre leading to several people being injured). Also in Haystead v. Chief Constable of Derbyshire where the Defendant punched a mother who was holding a baby causing the mother to drop the baby onto the floor. The Defendantís conviction for battery against the baby was upheld. Not necessary to prove that the Victim felt the physical contact/touching: R v. Thomas. Contact with the Victimís clothes will suffice: R v. Day.

Inflict means to cause, and there must be both factual and legal causation. In relation to legal causation the Defendant may legally cause a result (even though he does not directly touch the Victim) provided the result was reasonably foreseeable. For example where D spits at the Victim or throws water over him. In R v. Martin (above) D indirectly caused Victims to suffer a battery by calling fire in a theatre leading to several people being injured. See also Haystead v. Chief Constable of Derbyshire. In Murgatroyd v. Chief Constable of West Yorkshire the Defendant was held to have caused a battery when he set a dog on the Victim.

Mens Rea: it must be shown that the Defendant either intended (direct or oblique) to apply unlawful personal force upon the Victim or was reckless whether such force might be applied: Venna. (No need to show hostility. Battery does not require the apprehension of immediate violence.) Recklessness here has a subjective meaning: Savage; Parmenter namely that the Defendant must have actually foreseen the risk of causing the battery/application of unlawful personal violence upon the Victim (by his conduct).

Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm


Actus Reus: of the offence requires the Defendant to commit either an assault or a battery that occasioned actual bodily harm. The assault or battery must be established in its own right first.

ABH (Actual Bodily Harm): In Taylor v. Granville it was suggested any physical injury would be ABH if short of GHB or wounding. It being a question of fact and degree to be determined by the Jury.

Following Miller and Chan-Fook actual bodily harm can be defined as any hurt or injury, which is not so trivial as to be wholly insignificant and was a question of fact and degree to be determined by the jury. ABH need not be permanent, but must be more than merely transient or trifling.

Actual bodily harm can involve a loss of consciousness as in T v. DPP, pain caused by a kick to the stomach as in Reigate JJ, exp Counsell and psychological harm but this would require expert evidence of a medically recognised psychiatric condition, example clinical depression. It does not encompass mere emotions such as fear, distress or panic or even psychological harm falling short of psychiatric illness: R v. D.

The Crown Prosecution Service Charging Standards suggest s.47 would be the appropriate charge where the victim sustained temporary loss of sensory function, minor cuts, severe bruising, a broken nose, loss or breaking of tooth, minor fractures and minor cuts requiring stitching.

Occasioning: means to cause, and there must be both factual and legal causation. The Defendantís conduct (assault/battery) must cause the ABH. In relation to causation in law there must be a culpable act that must be substantial and operative and there must be an unbroken chain. In Roberts it was held where the ABH suffered by the Victimís escape (intervening act) was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the Defendantís battery then the battery will be the operating and substantial cause providing the escape was not daft or foolhardy. The chain of causation would not be broken.

Mens Rea: In relation to Mens Rea, this is merely the Mens Rea of the initial assault or battery, there is no Mens Rea in relation to the ABH: Savage; Parmenter. No need to show D intended or was reckless to causing ABH.

Points: the offence is triable either way and therefore can be attempted.


Unlawfully and Maliciously wounding or inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm on any other person with or without any weapon:

Section 20 Offences Against Persons Act 1861


Actus Reus: involves either unlawfully wounding (or) unlawfully inflicting GBH with or without a weapon.

Wound: The Defendantís unlawful conduct must cause the wound. There must be both factual and legal causation. In relation to causation in law there must be a culpable act that must be substantial and operative and there must be an unbroken chain. The wound need not result from a battery: Savage; Parmenter.

Continuity of the whole skin must be broken: Moriarty v. Brookes. Internal rupturing of blood vessels will not constitute a wound: JJC (A minor) v. Eisenhower.

GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm): means Ďreallyí serious harm: DPP v. Smith or just serious harm: Saunders. This is determined objectively, rather than from the Victimís perspective: Brown. However, as illustrated in Bollam the court may take into account individual characteristics of the Victim and the impact of the injury on the Victim (17 month old baby).

GBH includes serious psychiatric injury: Ireland; Burstow but this would require expert evidence.

GBH includes sexually transmitted diseases: Dica. Here the Defendant was convicted of s.20 for infecting two women with HIV virus. Consent in relation to the sexual intercourse did not mean consent to the harm caused. Such consent must be genuine and informed.

The Crown Prosecution Service Charging Standards suggests an injury would constitute GBH where it results in substantial loss of blood usually necessitating transfusion; broken or dislocated limbs or bones including fractured skull; broken cheek bone; jaw, ribs etc. A Broken collarbone was held to be GBH in R v. Wood.

Inflicting GBH: The House of Lords view in R v. Wilson is that inflict does not imply a battery nor a direct or indirect application of force to the body as held by the House of Lords in Ireland; Burstow. GBH can now be inflicted by telephone calls or other harassment causing severe depression. Severe Psychiatric harm can be inflicted for the purposes of s.20. It was further stated by Lord Steyn that there was no practical distinction between inflicting GBH and causing GBH.

Following Ireland; Burstow the Court of Appeal in Dica held that the Defendant inflicted GBH contrary to s.20 where he infected the Victims with HIV after having unprotected sexual intercourse with them.

GBH to another from an accident would still have been inflicted, as there is no requirement that the Defendant assault the Victim for liability under s.20: R v. Brady. (Defendant falling onto the Victim after losing his balance.)

There must be both factual and legal causation. In relation to causation in law there must be a culpable act that must be substantial and operative and there must be an unbroken chain.

Escape Cases: In Marjoram it was held by Court of Appeal that where the Victim jumped from her window sustaining serious injury where the Defendant had forced the door after shouting abuse and kicking the door, the Defendantís conduct was an operating and substantial cause of the injury because a reasonable person would have foreseen the Victimís conduct given that it was not daft or foolhardy. The reasonable person is not attributed with the sex or age of Victim.

Mens Rea: for s. 20 is maliciously. It was confirmed by the House of Lords in Savage; Parmenter that the Defendant acts maliciously if he intends his actions to cause some harm to another or is subjectively reckless that his actions might cause some harm. Not necessary for the Defendant to foresee a wound or GBH. Proof that the Defendant foresaw some harm might occur as opposed to would occur suffices: DPP v. DA.

Points: If the harm meets the definition of wounding or GBH, s.47 is exceeded and the Defendant is charged with s.20. Intention or recklessness only to frighten cannot be the Mens Rea under s.20: Sullivan.

Unlawfully and Maliciously Wounding or causing GBH with intent to do GBH or with intent to resist lawful arrest or detention by any means and to any person:

Section 18 Offences Against Persons Act 1861


Actus Reus: The Actus Reus of s.18 is satisfied by a wound or GBH (discussed in s.20). With respect to the GBH there must be legal and factual causation. In relation to causation in law there must be a culpable act that must be substantial and operative and there must be an unbroken chain.

Mens Rea: There are two elements of Mens Rea. First, the result must be maliciously caused, meaning D intended (direct/oblique) or was subjectively reckless to causing some physical harm (D was aware of the risk that some physical harm might occur): Savage; Parmenter approving Mowatt. For the purposes of the first element here is no need to prove that the Defendant intended to cause GBH or to wound: Court of Appeal in Taylor. 

Second, the Mens Rea requires an ulterior intent. Namely, that the Defendant intended (direct/oblique) to cause GBH or resist or prevent lawful apprehension. This intention to cause GBH may be different from what actually results. For example, the Defendant may have intended GBH but a wound not amounting to GBH actually resulted.

It is submitted where the Defendant commits an offence under s.18 with intent to do GBH he must have been malicious as malicious means intention to do some physical harm. In this context therefore, malicious adds nothing: obiter in Mowatt. In Taylor it was held however, that where the Defendantís ulterior intent is to resist lawful arrest or detention maliciousness must be proved.

Points: S.18 can be committed by an omission provided there was a duty of care to act. Once wound or GBH has been shown to have been maliciously caused the Prosecution must then prove the ulterior intent.

Please Note: In October 2009, The Supreme Court replaced the House of Lords Appellate Committee as the highest court in the United Kingdom by virtue of Part 3 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.

The article being intended as a revision aid only, relevant Case Law have been highlighted and in some cases abbreviated, as students should be familiar with the full citation.

The above article is based on the law of England and Wales and is intended as a revision aid only and should not substitute textbooks nor deter further academic research. Furthermore, this article should not be relied upon in real life situations where professional legal advice should be sought.

REFERENCES / RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING

  •   Criminal Law, The Fundamentals, Second Edition by Christina McAlhone and Rebecca Huxley-Binns.
      Published by Sweet & Maxwell.
  •   Criminal Law: Card, Cross & Jones, Eighteenth Edition by Richard Card. Published by Oxford.


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