What Happens If You Are Charged With Common Assault And/Or Battery
The terms ‘assault’ and ‘battery’, are classed as Summary Offences under the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Both charges can lead to incarceration of the accused if he or she is found guilty; therefore, it is advisable to seek legal advice from an experienced criminal solicitor upon arrest.
What is common assault?
An assault is any act committed intentionally or recklessly that causes another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence.
What is battery?
Battery is the act of committing unlawful violence on another person.
What does the prosecution have to prove to establish assault?
To establish that an assault took place the prosecution must show that the accused intended to cause fear and apprehension in the mind of the victim. Without the element of intent there can be no assault, unless the accused behaved in a manner that was reckless enough that the victim would have apprehended an immediate and violent act occurring.
The test of recklessness is set out in the case of R v Cunningham . It is a subjective test. An accused will be 'Cunningham reckless' if he foresees the possibility that the victim will be subjected to unlawful force, however slight, and goes on to take that risk.
What is ‘unlawful’ violence?
The violence must be unlawful for there to be an assault. No assault will occur is the accused was acting:
- in self-defence
- in defence of another
- for the prevention of crime
- where the victim gives express or implied consent, or
- to effect a lawful arrest
How is battery established by the prosecution?
To establish that battery occurred the prosecution must prove:
- an infliction of unlawful force on another person, and
- the force applied was intentional or reckless
The force does not have to be applied directly, for example, in DPP v K (a minor) the Divisional Court ruled that a schoolboy who had poured acid into a hand dryer causing injury to another pupil who had used it, had committed an assault.
What are the defences to an assault charge?
There are a number of defences to assault, but it should be noted that as a matter of public policy, consent is generally irrelevant if injury is caused by one person to another.
Exceptions to this general rule include:
- Injuries that occur on the sporting field are not considered to be an assault unless they grave enough to be classified as criminal.
- Rough horseplay with no intent to cause injury will not be assault if an injury occurs.
- If a patient has consented to a medical procedure, then there is no assault
- At common law parents are entitled to use moderate physical punishment against their children.
- Being intoxicated or under the influence of drugs provides no defence to the charge of assault and/or battery.
Will I go to court if charged with assault and/or battery by the police?
Yes. Unless the assault and/or battery was racially motivated, the charge will be heard in a Magistrate’s Court. If the attack was racially motivated, it can be heard in either the Magistrate’s Court or the Crown Court.
What is the maximum sentence for assault and battery?
Common assault carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and/or a fine.
A person charged with a first offence is likely to receive a fine rather than a custodial sentence.