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Criminal Law Explained: Common Assault

Articles, Crime, Criminal Law Explained

In this “Criminal Law Explained” article we will take you through the law, the sentencing and the defence for the offence of Common Assault in England & Wales.

A Common Assault is committed when a person intentionally or recklessly causes another person to apprehend the immediate application of unlawful force. The offence is contained within Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

What is 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.

What is the Sentence for Common Assault?


  • A custodial (prison) sentence of up to 6 months
  • Community Order
  • Fine

Sentencing Guidelines 

Offence Category
Category 1
Category 2
Category 3
Starting Point
(Applicable to all offenders)
High level community order
Medium level community order
Band A fine
Category Range
(Applicable to all offenders)
Low level community order – 26 weeks’ custody
Band A fine – High level community order
Discharge – Band C fine

When will I require legal representation?

Common assault is an offence which can result in a prison sentence of up to 6 months along with a criminal record which may cause difficulties with your current or future employment. Whilst common assault is the least serious assault charge, a person prosecuted under this offence would always benefit from expert legal advice and representation. 

What our solicitors check for in Common Assault Cases


  • Identifying weaknesses within the prosecution case;
  • Establishing whether the prosecution can place our client at the scene during the alleged offence
  • Determining whether the injuries amount to serious harm
  • Determining whether the prosecution can prove intent to cause serious harm
  • Evaluating the strength of the prosecution evidence
  • Assessing the credibility of prosecution witnesses
  • Identifying potential defence witnesses

Do you require a solicitor for Common Assault

If you have just read our quick guide to Common Assault then you should have an idea by now whether you require legal representation for this offence. If you feel you do require legal advice and representation please not hesitate to contact us by calling 0345 222 9955 or by filling out our contact form.

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Our head office is located at 1 Victoria Square in Birmingham City Centre and we offer our services throughout England and Wales on a private fee-paying basis. We also have an office at 5 Chancery Lane in London and another office in central Milton Keynes. We are frequently instructed by individuals and businesses nationwide.

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Birmingham Office

1 Victoria Square
West Midlands
B1 1BD

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London Office

5 Chancery Lane

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Milton Keynes Office

The Pinnacle
Midsummer Boulevard
Milton Keynes, MK9 1BP

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