Assault and Battery
An offence of Common Assault is dealt with under s.39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, and is committed when a person either assaults another person or commits a battery (though it is important to bear in mind that assault and battery are still two separate offences).
An assault is committed when a person intentionally or recklessly causes someone to expect that unlawful force is about to be inflicted upon them.
Importantly, a person can be charged with assault even if no physical contact was made, as it is the expectation that counts- did the other person fear that unlawful force was going to be used?
A battery is committed when a person intentionally and recklessly applies unlawful force to another- essentially, it is a more serious form of assault.
Cases of battery can include instances in which a person is pushed, slapped or even spat at.
When might a person be charged with Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) instead?
This is often referred to as a ‘section 47’ which refers to s.47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
In law, ‘bodily harm’ means exactly that: hurt or injury sustained by a victim (such as severe bruising, a brief loss of consciousness or minor cuts.)
What about Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)?
You may hear reference to a ‘section 18’ and a ‘section 20.’ These are both forms of GBH under the Offences Against the Person Act, but there is a key difference. It is not the seriousness of any injury that is key, but whether the accused intended to cause serious bodily harm.
When looking at whether or not the accused had the necessary intention, two things count- what they did, and what they said.
The rule of thumb here is- sentences are greater the more serious the offence.
Assault and Battery generally attract sentences of up to six months’ imprisonment, and/or a fine up to £5,000.
s.47 and s.20 offences carry a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment.
s.18 offences attract the strongest sentences by far- it is possible for the Crown Court to impose a life sentence for GBH.
Assaulting a Police Constable
This is an offence which is tried in the Magistrates' Court, with a maximum sentence of 6 months' imprisonment and/or a fine of £5,000.
It is important to remember that this differs from the offence of Obstructing a Police Officer, which attracts a maximum sentence of 1 month imprisonment and/or a fine of £1,000. 'Obstruction' refers to making the officer's job more difficult, so this naturally applies itself to a wide range of situations.
Assault with Intent to Resist Arrest
Although this can apply to situations involving police officers, it can also apply in other circumstances, e.g. if the case involves a store detective or Police Community Support Officer.
In the Crown Court, the maximum sentence is two years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. In the Magistrates' Court, it is six months' imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding £5,000.
Telephone: 0113 200 7400
Emergency 24 hour arrest helpline: 07659106872
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