It seems that at the moment, the protest method of choice is to throw a milkshake at a political figure. First there were two occasions in which former EDL leader (and now independent MEP candidate) Tommy Robinson had the drink thrown over him, now we’ve seen one hit Brexit Party head Nigel Farage whilst on a walkabout in Newcastle.

In the Farage case, the 32 year old man responsible for the deed has been charged with common assault and criminal damage, but how does the humble milkshake fit in to all this? Surely you need at least a punch to be thrown or serious harm to be caused in order for such charges to result?

The short answer is no, and here Regulatory and Crime team looks at why this is the case.

Common Assault

This is an offence according to section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. It is tried only in a Magistrates’ Court, and can be punished by a prison sentence of up to six months, a fine of not more than £2,500, or a combination of both.

For a person to be charged under this heading, there simply needs to be an act which intentionally or recklessly causes another person to apprehend immediate or unlawful personal violence.

The prosecution will have to satisfy the court that an act did occur (so in this case, the throwing of the milkshake) which caused Mr Farage to fear that violence would be used against him. It does not matter whether the person throwing the milkshake deliberately wanted him to feel that way, or did it regardless of whether he caused fear or not.

An ‘assault’ doesn’t require that actual force is applied- it’s whether the conduct fits the description in s.39 and whether it could be said to have caused Mr Farage to fear that personal violence could conceivably follow.

Criminal Damage

Section 1 (1) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 states that if a person without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another, and they intended to do so or were merely reckless, they can be found guilty of an offence.

If the value of the item is less than £5,000, then the case will be heard in the Magistrates’ Court and the maximum punishment will be three months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to £2,500 or a combination of the two.

It’s not yet clear why this charge has been brought in addition to the assault- the milkshake landed on Mr Farage’s suit and presumably damaged it to the point that it could not be dry cleaned or otherwise repaired. No doubt the rationale will be explained by the CPS in due course.

The court process will take its course, so for now the scope for comment in relation to the case itself is limited. One thing is clear- the implications of the practice now termed ‘milkshaking’ have taken on a more serious aspect, one which sounds a note of caution for anyone tempted to engage in it too.

If you require any more information, please contact Ison Harrison.

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