Common assault and battery

The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Common assault and battery
  • The offences of common assault and battery
  • The elements of common assault
  • Conduct
  • Intention and recklessness
  • Immediacy of threat
  • Unlawful force
  • Elements of battery
  • Defences to assault and battery
  • Consent defences
  • More...

Common assault and battery

The offences of common assault and battery

Technically, the offences of assault and battery are separate summary offences. An assault is committed when the defendant intentionally or recklessly causes another to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence and battery is committed when a defendant intentionally or recklessly inflicts unlawful force. Although battery may follow an assault that is not always the case.

Common assault and battery can only be tried in the magistrates' court, unless the attack is racially motivated, in which cases the offences can be tried in the magistrates' court or Crown Court by virtue of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (CDA 1998). See Racially or religiously aggravated assault below.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 (AEW(O)A 2018) provides for increased sentencing powers for offences of common assault and battery committed against an emergency worker acting in the exercise of functions as such a worker from 13 November 2018. See: Offences against emergency workers below.

The elements of common assault

The prosecution must prove:

  1. conduct

  2. that intentionally or recklessly

  3. causes the victim to apprehend immediate unlawful violence

Conduct

It is not necessary that any violence is actually used. It is the fear or apprehension of violence which is required.

For example, in R v Ireland repeated silent telephone calls to three women were held to constitute an assault in circumstances where the victims feared

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