A2 - Law - Section 47 of OAPA 1861 - ABH

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  • Created by: jkav
  • Created on: 26-05-16 16:14

Section 47 of OAPA 1861

Section 47 deals with the least serious cases of harm. Section 47 states; 'Whosoever shall be convicted on indictment of any assault occasioning actual bodily harm shall be liable to imprisonment for not more than five years'. The offence is triable either way, depending on the gravity of the assault.

Actus reus

The key elements in the actus reus are the words; assault, occasioning, actual bodily harm.


The terms 'assault' under s.47 means either an assault or a battery according to the cases and principles set out for assault.


An assault or battery will only be charged under s47 if it occasions actual bodily harm. If there is no such harm, then the charge will be brought under s39 of the CJA 1988. 'Occasion' appears to mean the same as 'cause' and the normal rules of causation apply, as confirmed in Roberts (1971). The facts of this case were that the victim jumped from a moving car, fearing a sexual assault when the accused told her to undress and tried to remove her coat. The court needed to consider whether the victim's actions in jumping out of the car, had broken the causal chain. The court ruled that the chain was still intact since her actions could 'reasonably have been foreseen as the consequence of what he was saying or doing'. The judgement recognised that a victim will not neceessarily act in a sensible manner in a moment of fright, but added that a defendant might not be held responsible if the victim does something 'daft' or unexpected that no reasonable man could be expected to foresee.

Where the accused directly physically attacks their victim, then causation is immediately established and no further discussion is required.

Actual bodily harm

The word 'actual' refers to the fact that, unlike assault or battery, there must be some form of physical or psychological injury caused to the victim. Assault occasioning actual bodily harm can be very minor harm, and indeed was described in Miller (1954) as 'any hurt or injury calculated to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim', provided it is more than 'transient and trifling'.

The definition of actual bodily harm was extended to hair being cut without the consent of the victim in DPP v Smith (2006). Here, the defendant forced down the head of his former girlfiend and chopped of her ponytail. The defence tried to argue that hair could not be treated as 'bodily' harm since it was dead tissue above the scalp. The court disagreed, however, and determined that hair was to be treated as part of the body. It noted that cutting a woman's hair without her consent is a 'serious matter amounting to actual (not trivial or insignificant) bodily harm'. It was also stated, obiter, that if paint or similar material was put on the hair, that could also be actual bodily…


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