Assault - Are you a victim?
Assault can simply be understood as an act of one person (A) which causes another (V / victim) to apprehend immediate and unlawful personal violence. In understanding this, two things must be kept in mind: 1) the act of A includes words, conduct or even omission; and 2) assault is not about the hitting but the apprehension that you are about to be hit. If someone knocks you out from your back without you noticing, there is therefore no assault. You instead charge him for battery (which is discussed in another hub). Any other situations where the assault ends up in you getting hit, you charge him for battery as well.
Understanding the basic concept, have a look at the various circumstances below where there can be assault.
Circumstances where there is assault
Threat from words
No doubt - words alone can amount to assault. There's no need for any fist raising or swinging of a baseball bat. Words like "get out the knives" ( R v Wilson) are sufficient to amount to assault if the victim apprehended unlawful force.
This simply means that the threat requires the victim to do something in order to prevent the unlawful force. Example : "If you do not leave, we will break your neck" (Read v Coker). This is an assault. This case is where a man refused to leave a premise even after been told so. He then became a trespasser as his permission to be at the premise has expired. Such a conditional threat can amount to an assault as the victim needed to do something extra - to leave the premise.
Silent phone calls (R v Ireland)
Words can amount to an assault but can remaining silent so amount? This depends on the circumstances actually. There are no really any proper guidelines. It is left for the jury to consider. But there is no reason why a telephone caller who threaten a girl cannot be charged for assault if the girl apprehended immediate personal violence. Therefore for a case of a silent phone call, the person intends to use his silence to cause fear and he is so understood. And when a person is just silent, the victim is uncertain of the caller's intentions. In short, whether silent phone calls amount to an assault, it is a question of fact for the jury to decide.
Negativing an assault
"If it were not for assizes time, I will not take such language from you." - classic case of Tuberville v Savage. This is not an assault because the person has no intent to hurt the victim now. Another example can be this : an insult, a person says, "If my girlfriend is not here, I would have hit you." This is not an assault as well.
Threat from conduct
A striking punch even when it missed, it is an assault (Martin v Shoppe). A punch even when it is stopped/intercepted amounts to an assault if the victim apprehended personal violence (Stephen v Myers).
More Interesting Circumstances
A person looked through the window of the victim's bedroom, intending to frighten her. She was in her nightclothes. All doors and windows are locked. Nevertheless when the girl saw him, she was shocked and frightened. This is therefore an assault. Although there is no way that the person could enter to batter the girl, it does not matter. The immediacy is to the apprehension of the personal violence. The violence, however, can take place later, at any other time, or never at all.
(Smith v Superintendent of Working Police Station)
The victim received two letters -just two letters- from a person who had harassed her for some time. And she interpreted such letters as threats. As such, this is an assault as well. Again, assault is the apprehension/fear of unlawful force (touching is an unlawful force as well if there is no consent from the person you touched). If the victim immediately apprehends 'touching', then there is assault.
(R v Constanza)
In the end, much depends on whether the victim apprehends unlawful force. If a person points an unloaded gun to the victim and the victim is unaware that the gun is unloaded, then there is assault as the victim apprehended violence. But if the victim is aware, there cannot be assault as the person is unable to carry out any harm by pointing the gun at the victim. (R v Lamb)