Non-Fatal offences

Assault, battery, actual bodily harm, grevious bodily harm, evaluation.

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Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 provides that assault is a summary offence with a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment or a fine. It is a Judge made law. CASE: R v Venna (1976).

Actus Reus

The Actus Reus of assault is any act that makes the victim fear that unlawful force is to be used against them.

  • No force need actually be applied such as pointing a gun or raising a fist.
  • For years the court have debated whether words can amount to assault. R v Meade and Belt (1823), R v Wilson (1955).
  • A silent telephone call constitutes as assult if the psychological injury caused is significant.
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Assault Continued.

  • The victim must fear immediate threat or harm, not some time in the future.  CASE: Smith v Chief Superintendent, working police station (1983).


  • There is no assault if it is obvious to the victim that the defendant connot or will not carry out their threat of violence. CASE: Tuberville v Savage (1669).

Mens Rea

  • Mens Rea of assault is either intention or Cunningham recklessness.


  • The defendant must have either intended to cause the victim to fear the infliction of immediate and unlawful force or must have seen the risk that such fear would create.


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  • Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 provides that battery is a summary offence punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment or fine. It is a common law offence.

Actus Reus

  • This consists of the application of unlawful force on another, any unlawful physical act can amount to battery. A mere touch can be sufficent.


  • The victim need not be aware that they are about to be struck, so if someone is struck from behind this will still constitute as battery, they dont need to see it coming. This also applies with touching someones clothing. CASE: R v Thomas (1985).


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Battery continued.

  • An ommission can amount to the Actus Reus of battery.
  • Battery can be direct or indirect. Direct battery is force applied by one person to another e.g. slap. Indirect battery can be applied using an implement or vehicle.

CASE: Fagan v Metropolitain police Commissioner (1969), Haystead v DDP (2000).

Mens Rea

  • The Mens Rea of battery is intention or Cunningham recklessness.


  • Assult and battery may occur at the same time known as common assult.


  • These injuries include minor bruising, grazing, small cuts, swelling.
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Actual bodily harm (ABH).

  • Section 47 of the offence against the person Act 1861 states that an offence to commit 'any assult occasioning actual bodily harm' The offence is triable either way and carries a sentence of 5 years imprisonment.

Actus Reus -This is interpreted as assault or battery which causes ABH, this is any hurt or injury calculated to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim. So when discofort to the person is caused.

  • ABH can include pychiatric injury and nervous shock, but not mere emotions such as fear, distress or panic.

Mens Rea - The Mens Rea for ABH is the same as assult and battery, no additional Mens Rea is required. CASE: R v Roberts (1978), R v Savage (1991).

  • The police and CPS have agreed on the injuries for ABH as minor fractures, severe bruising and small cuts that require stiches, loss of consciousness or psychiatric injury.
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Grevious bodily harm (GBH).


Actus Reus

  • Unlawfully or maliciously wounding or inflicting GBH. In DPP v Smith (1961) the house of lords emphasised that GBH should be given its ordinary meaning which is 'really serious harm'. This was confirmed in R v Saunders (1985) where the court of Appeal said there is no real difference between the meaning of 'serious' and 'really serious'.
  • The word 'inflict' is interpreted to mean that the GBH must be caused by the direct application of force. e.g. kicking or stabbing. CASE: R v Martin (1881), R v Haliday (1896), R v Dica (2004).
  • A wound requiresa break in the first two layers of skin, so there is normally bleeding, though a graze is sufficent.


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GBH Continued.

Mens Rea

  • This GBH is described by the word 'maliciously', there is no need to intend GBH or wounding, or to be reckless as to whether GBH or wounding might be caused.


  • The defendant needs only to intend or be reckless that their actions could cause some physical damage. CASE: R v Grimshaw (1984), R v Parmenter (1991).


  • The police and CPS have agreed on the GBH S.20 as Serious injury, broken skin, dislocated joints or injury causing permenant disability or disfigurement.
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GBH Continued.

Section 18 GBH

Actus Reus

  • This is similar to s.20 for GBH and requires proof of either GBH or wounding.

Mens Rea

  • To satisfy the Mens Rea the prosecution must prove intention to cause GBH or the intention to avoid arrest.
  • The difference between S.20 and S.18 GBH is that while recklessness can be sufficient for s.20 intention is always required for s.18.
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Iqra Naeem



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