First 745 words of the document:
The current law concerning non-fatal offences comes from the Offences Against the Person Act
(eighteen sixty one). This particular statute has been criticised as being in need of reform, and
therefore not currently in a satisfactory state.
The recommendations for reform have been made by both the Criminal Law Revision Committee and
the Law Commission. The Law Commission, in particular highlighted three main problems with the
Offences Against the Person Act. Firstly, it uses obscure, complicated and old-fashioned language,
such as "maliciously" and "grievously". Secondly, the structure of the act is complicated and finally
people from a non-legal background find it very difficult to understand. Some of these three
problems have been resolved by judges in individual cases. For example in the case Burstow
resolved the issue concerning whether or not a technical assault had to take place in order to "inflict"
GBH section twenty. They have also had to extend the meaning of "bodily harm" to include mental
health, so that a D causing such an injury can be convicted.
The first main problem with the current law on non-fatal offences is that there is inconsistency
between each offence. This is particularly noticeable when the mens rea for each offence is
considered. For example, ABH (section forty seven) has the same mens rea for an assault or battery.
This means that D does not have to intend or realise that there is a risk of injury to V. This seems
unfair as the punishment is more serious. Furthermore, it can be seen as unsatisfactory that a person
who causes a small cut can be charged with the serious offence of GBH section twenty instead of the
offence Occasioning actual bodily harm under section forty seven. This is beacsue section twenty
clearly refers to "wound or cause GBH) whereas is it not referred to in section forty seven. Yet, there
are obviously different levels of "wound" and not all should mean that D is carged with section
twenty or section eighteen. There is also major inconsistency when a D who might only intend or
foresee a risk of minor injury to V, can be charged with GBH section eighteen if serious injury then
occurs when he is resisting arrest. It seems unfair that a D who resists arrest can be liable for the
same offence as someone who intended to cause a very serious injury to their V.
A second problem with the Offences Against the Person Act is the inconsistency in the sentencing.
This is clear when the maximum sentences for each offence are considered. For the offences of
assault and battery, the maximum sentence is six months imprisonment. For section forty seven, the
maximum sentence is five years imprisonment. Yet the mens rea for these two offences is pretty
much the same. It seems unjust to have such a variation in sentencing when the mens rea for the
offences is very similar. Another issues is that the maximum sentence for section forty seven and
section twenty are the same five years imprisonment. Yet the mens rea and level of injury is much
more serious for section twenty. The mens rea for section forty seven is intentionally or recklessly
committing an assault or battery resulting in ABH, whilst for section twenty it is intention or
recklessness as to some harm. The elements for GBH section twenty are much more serious than the
required parts for Section forty seven. Taking these factors into account, it is difficult to understand
why the maximum sentences for these two offences are the same.
A final problem of the Offences Against the Person Act is that is uses outdated language. For
example, the phrase bodily harm is used in sections forty seven, twenty and eighteen. One reason
for this is when the Act was passed nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, there was little medical
knowledge, particularly of psychiatric illness. With the development of improved medical knowledge
it is now possible to cause psychiatric illness by putting them in fear. This has meant that judges have
had to develop the law in cases such as Burstow and Ireland to match modern knowledge and
Other pages in this set
Here's a taster:
However, it is only because of judicial development that "bodily harm" has been
interpreted in this way. The law would be much more clearer, and more satisfactory, if the law was
re-written and wrote more clearly. Judges have also had to adapt the law to modern knowledge in
this area of transmitting disease. Defendants can now be liable for infecting others with diseases
such as HIV, like in Dica. However it would be more satisfactory if the law was re-written to cover
such situations specifically.…read more