A common area of law which Kang and Co Solicitors often advise and represent Clients concerns the legislation on offences against the persons.  The legislation contains the law on some of the most common violent offences against the persons.  

This includes five common offences:

  • Battery
  • Common Assault
  • Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)
  • Wounding
  • Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)
  • Wounding

Below is a brief summary of each offence, and an outline of the common differences between each offence:

Battery

(Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988)

A battery is committed when a person intentionally or recklessly applies unlawful force to another person. The Courts often refer to this offence as an assault by “beating”.

Elements of Battery:

  • The act: The application of unlawful force against another. This can be the smallest application of force.
  • The intent: A person accused of ‘Section 39 Battery’ must intend the application of force or be reckless in the application of force. Recklessness in criminal law is the taking of an unjustified risk by an accused who should have foreseen their actions would likely to result in force being applied to another.

Court/Sentence for the offence of Battery:

  • The offence of battery is only triable at the Magistrates’ Court.
  • The maximum sentence for battery is 6 months imprisonment

If you plead guilty to battery, or are found guilty following a Trial, this offence will result in a criminal conviction being recorded against you, which could ultimately result in difficulties in securing employment in the future or difficulties with your regulator, if you are a regulated professional such as an accountant, teacher or medical professional.

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Common Assault

(Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988)

A Common Assault is committed when a person intentionally or recklessly causes another person to apprehend the immediate application of unlawful force.  The difference between a Battery charge and a Common Assault is there does not need to be any application of force for a Common Assault to occur, there only needs to be the apprehension of unlawful force by another person.

Elements of a Common Assault:

  • The act: Causing another person to fear the immediate application of unlawful force.
  • The intent: When causing another person to fear the immediate application of unlawful force, the accused should either have intended the other person to fear the immediate application of unlawful force or have foreseen their actions would result in causing another person to fear the immediate application of unlawful force.

The prosecution will need to prove both elements mentioned above to secure a conviction of Assault against a Defendant.

Court/Sentence for the offence of Common Assault:

  • The offence of Common Assault is only triable at the Magistrates’ Court.
  • The maximum sentence for Common Assault is 6 months imprisonment.

Actual Bodily Harm – ABH

(Section 47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861)

When a person intentionally or recklessly assaults another person, causing Actual Bodily Harm. “Bodily Harm” means any hurt, which interferes with the health or comfort of a person.  It need not be permanent harm, but it must be more than short term or petty. This can include psychological harm.

Elements of Actual Bodily Harm:

  • The act: The application of unlawful force to another; and the application of force results in any hurt that interferes with the health or comfort of a victim.
  • The intent: At the time of the application of force, the accused must either intend the application of force, or should have foreseen their conduct was likely to result in the application of force to another.

Court/Sentence for the offence of Actual Bodily Harm:

  • The offence of Actual Bodily Harm is triable in the Magistrates or Crown Court.
  • The maximum sentence for Actual Bodily Harm is 5 years imprisonment.

Unlawful Wounding / Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm

(Section 20 Offences Against the Person Act 1861)

This offence is committed when a person unlawfully and maliciously wounds or applies grievous bodily harm on another person.

Elements of Unlawful Wounding / Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm:

  • The act: The unlawful causing of a wound or application (both directly and indirectly) of “serious harm” to another. A wound is the breaking of the skin.
  • The intent: The accused must intend to cause a wound or apply “some harm” or they should have foreseen their conduct is likely to result in the causing of “some harm”.

Court / Sentence for the offence of Unlawful Wounding / Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm:

  • The offence of Unlawful Wounding / Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm is triable in either the Magistrates or Crown Court.
  • The maximum sentence for Unlawful Wounding / Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm is 5 years imprisonment.

Wounding / Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent

(Section 18 Offences Against the Person Act 1861)

This offence is committed when a person unlawfully and maliciously, with intent to do “serious harm” or with the intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detain of any other person, either wounds another person or causes them “serious harm”.

Elements of Wounding / Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent:

  • The act: The unlawful application of force causing the breaking of skin or application of “serious harm” to another.
  • The intent: When the accused causes the wound or applies force they must intend to cause “serious harm” or resist or prevent the lawful detainment of any person.

Court/Sentence for the offence of Wounding / Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent:

  • The offence of Wounding / Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent is only triable in the Crown Court.
  • The maximum sentence for Wounding / Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent is life imprisonment.

Defences

Where a person is charged with any of the above offences, there are potentially defences available. These may usually include:

Self Defence:

A person is only guilty of the above offences if they acted “unlawfully”.  It is a defence if the accused acted “lawfully” in self-defence.

What is self-defence?

A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances for the purposes of:

  • self-defence; or
  • defence of another; or
  • defence of property; or
  • prevention of crime; or
  • lawful arrest

The law is sometimes vague on what amounts to self-defence.  Self-defence must be both “necessary” and “reasonable”. 

Necessity: There must have been no other course of conduct the accused could have taken in the circumstances, such as walking away or do nothing. 

Reasonableness: The force used must have been reasonable.  For example if the accused fears force from another by way of a punch, but stabs the other person using a knife, this is unlikely to be self-defence as the force could be said to be excessive.  The defence of self-defence is judged on a case by case basis and it is always important to get legal advice from a qualified lawyer when self-defence is an issue.

What do I have to prove for self-defence?

An accused only needs to raise evidence they acted in self-defence.  It for the Prosecution then to satisfy beyond reasonable doubt the accused was not acting in self-defence.

Consent:

Consent, in the absence of good reason, is not a defence to cause Actual Bodily Harm, Grievous Bodily Harm or wounding to another person.  However, genuine consent maybe raised as a defence to Common Assault or Battery. The defence of consent is also judged on a case by case basis.  It is always important to obtain specialist legal advice from a qualified lawyer is consent is an issue.

If you would like to speak with one of our Specialist Criminal Defence Solicitors in connection with one of the criminal offences mentioned within this article, please complete our Contact Form or call 0345 222 9955.  

Carla Riozzi

Carla Riozzi

Solicitor and Higher Court Advocate.

 

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