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Assault, Battery and Grievous Bodily Harm Cases

Updated on December 7, 2013

Basic Facts

Assault and battery are not defined in statutes, instead the law relies on common law cases. The law on punishment is set out in statutes however and sets out:

  • A maximum of 6 months in prison can be given for assault.
  • A fine may be given instead of, or supplementary to, an indictment.

It also sets out that the two offences are summary offence e.g. assault, means that there is no trial by jury for this offence.

S.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."

Assault & Battery Cases

You need to know that:

Fagan (1969) was the case in which assault as it is used today was defined. This was the case where a man accidentally drove onto a policeman's foot whilst being helped by him to park his car, and then failed to drive off of his foot afterwards.

The House of Lords set the following definition:

"An assault is committed where the defendant intentionally or recklessly causes the victim to apprehend immediate unlawful personal violence."

It was in Lamb (1967) where one boy shot another with a revolver not thinking that it would go off and kill him. He was acquitted of unlawful act manslaughter as he did not have the mens rea for assault.

In Logdon (1976) a man pointed an imitation gun at a woman for a joke. The woman was very scared and then the man told her the gun wasn't real. Despite the fact that the man never intended to be violent he was still guilty of assault because of his recklessness towards her state of mind.

R v Constanza (1997) was where a man sent 800+ hate letters to a woman he used to work with, graffitied offensive words on her private property, pinched clothing from her washing line and even followed her home resulting in her suffering depression. Constanza overruled an old rule that words couldn't amount to assault and in R v Ireland (1997) it was shown that even silence (in this case dead calling three different women repeatedly) could amount to assault.

You can also negate an assault through words alone as was shown in the very old case Tuberville v Savage (1669) where a man said "'if it were not assize-time (when judges came to town for court sessions), I would not take such language from you'.

Smith (1983) shows us that the meaning of 'immediate' can be stretched: a man peers through the window of a house - the woman inside sees the man but he does not move and subsequently she is terrified. The defendant argued that the woman could not have expected 'immediate' danger but the courts were satisfied that her fear was of violence to come from the defendant in the near future.

R v Parmenter (1991) established that subjective recklessness must be used when recklessness applies in non-fatal crimes against the person, meaning every attack against a person that isn't homicide or of a sexual nature (these are dealt with separately).

In Parmenter, a man had damaged a baby's arms and legs because he didn't know how to hold one. He wasn't charged with GBH, as was his original indictment, but instead with ABH.

Picture Test! Which cases do the following represent?

Quite the opposite of this happened in 1969.
Quite the opposite of this happened in 1969.
The case of R v L... revolved around this weapon. (1967)
The case of R v L... revolved around this weapon. (1967)
We have to assume that he used one slightly more realistic than pictured. (1976)
We have to assume that he used one slightly more realistic than pictured. (1976)

"The List"

As per usual, at the end of the hub there is the list of cases for you to revise and learn:

  • Fagan (1969)
  • Lamb (1967)
  • Logdon (1976)
  • Constanza (1997)
  • Ireland (1997)
  • Tuberville v Savage (1669)
  • Smith (1983)
  • Parmenter (1991)


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