Our specialist team are expert common assault solicitors. If you find yourself being investigated for, or charged with, common assault, call our common assault solicitors now on 0800 1933 999. This page attempts to share some general information about common assault. If you have a common assault case, it is vital that you speak to our common assault solicitors without delay.
What legislation covers this offence?
Common Assault is an offence under Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
What type of conduct is covered by this offence?
A Common Assault takes place when a person either: (1) assaults another person; or (2) commits a battery.
In terms of this Act, an assault is committed when a person intentionally or recklessly causes another to apprehend the immediate infliction of unlawful force.
A battery, on the other hand, is committed when a person intentionally and recklessly applies unlawful force to another.
The difference, then, between the two conducts defined above is whether or not there is actual physical force. Our common assault solicitors can thoroughly review your case and advise whether you have been charged with the appropriate offence.
What is the difference between Common Assault and ABH (Assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm)?
There are two factors, in law, which distinguish Common Assault and ABH (Section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861). These are:-
- The degree of injury that results; and
- The sentence available to the sentencing court – only relevant in the Crown Court
Common Assault is the least serious of the assault charges. It is charged where there are no injuries, or the injuries are not serious.
Where there is a battery, a person should be charged with Assault by Beating (DPP v Little (1992) 1 All ER 299).
What are the sentencing powers of the courts for Common Assault?
Common Assault is a summary offence, which means it will be heard in the magistrates’ court. This also means that there is a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine.
Note: In exceptional circumstances, where the injuries to the victim are not serious but there are significant aggravating factors more in line with a charge of ABH, a custodial sentence of more than 6 months may be more appropriate.
What factors are taken into account when sentencing?
First of all, the degrees of harm caused to the ‘victim’, and the culpability (responsibility/blame) attributed to the person charged with the offence are assessed.
In this way, the offence is separated out into three categories of ascending seriousness. The court will decide which of these categories the offences fits.
In terms of harm, they will look at the level of injury, or fear of injury, and whether the victim is particularly vulnerable.
In relation to culpability, they will consider whether the offence was motivated by hostility to a person’s disability, sexuality, age, sex or gender. Use, or threatened use, of a weapon will make the matter more serious – this includes head butts or kicking, as well as a group activity.
The court will then look at factors that make the offence more serious, followed by those that would make it less serious.
Factors that would make the offence more serious include:-
– Previous convictions,
– location of the offence,
– timing of the offence,
– ongoing effect upon the victim,
– offence committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public,
– commission of offence whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs
– abuse of power and/or position of trust
Factors that would make the offence less serious include:-
– No previous convictions or no relevant/recent convictions
– Single blow
– Good character and/or exemplary conduct
– Determination and/or demonstration of steps taken to address addiction or offending behaviour
– Isolated incident
– Age and/or lack of maturity where it affects the responsibility of the offender
– Lapse of time since the offence where this is not the fault of the offender
– Mental disorder or learning disability, where not linked to the commission of the offence
– Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives
What if an assault is racially or religiously aggravated?
There is different legislation in place to cover assaults of this nature.
Racially/Religiously Aggravated Common Assault is an offence under the Crime and Disorder Act 1988.
In terms of sentencing, this is an either way offence, which means sentencing can take place in the magistrates’ or crown court, depending on the seriousness of the offence.
The fact that a case can be heard in the crown court indicates the offence is taken very seriously and the sentencing powers are greater, with options for custodial sentences above 6 months in length.
What defences are there to a charge of Common Assault?
In common with all assault charges, it is a defence to show that you acted in self-defence. You would have to show that you feared an attack and that the force you used was not excessive. You do not have to wait until you are hit before defending yourself – it is enough to show that you thought you were going to be attacked.
In appropriate cases, you may be able to argue mistaken identity.
If you are charged with Common Assault, there are two defences not available for any other assault offences, namely reasonable chastisement of a child and consent. Both of these are very complex and you should seek professional advice from our common assault solicitors as soon as possible if you feel you may have a defence.