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Actual Bodily Harm
Section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 provides:
"Whosoever shall be convicted on indictment of any assault occasioning actual bodily harm
shall be ........ (liable to punishment)."
The actus reus of Actual Bodily Harm
There are two elements:
(i) an assault or a battery
The assault can be the common law offence of either assault or battery described above.
The assault or battery must cause the bodily harm. Therefore it is necessary to consider the
chain of causation at this point.
(ii) actual bodily harm
The assault or battery must cause the actual bodily harm. Actual bodily harm has been
widely interpreted, including not just physical injury but also psychological injury such as
shock. In the 1954 case of R v Miller, in which the defendant was charged with the abh of
his wife, Judge Lynskey said.
"Actual bodily harm .... includes any hurt or injury calculated to interfere with the health or
comfort of the prosecutor." Because a nervous condition came within this definition, the
defendant was convicted of abh.
However, a more recent decision of the Court of Appeal would indicate a greater degree of
harm is required.
R v ChanFook (1994) CA
The defendant had locked his victim in a room and questioned him robustly, believing him to
have stolen an engagement ring. He was injured while trying to escape from the second
In determining whether this amounted to actual bodily harm, the CA stated that:
"The word harm is a synonym for injury ..... the injury should not be so trivial as to be
wholly insignificant.... Bodily injury may include injury to any of those parts of his body
responsible for his mental and other faculties."
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However, Hobhouse LJ made it clear that, although abh does include psychiatric injury, it
does not extend to states of mind such as fear or distress or panic unless these are evidence
of some identifiable clinical condition.
The mens rea of actual bodily harm
The mens rea is intention or Cunningham recklessness for the assault or the battery. The
defendant does not have to intend or foresee any actual bodily harm.…read more