Common Assault

The basic offence is triable only by magistrates but may be alleged as an alternative charge at a trial at the Crown Court if the prosecution chooses with a maximum penalty of £5,000 and 6 months (51 weeks).

Racially or religiously aggravated assault is triable either way, which means it can be tried either in the Magistrates or Crown court.

The defendant must intend to cause his victim to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence, or be reckless whether such apprehension be caused. 'Reckless' means that the accused foresaw the risk and went on to take it.

There is no requirement for there to be any contact between the two parties, a threatening gesture is enough. Words, however insulting, are probably not an assault but any attempt to commit a battery, even if the blow does not connect, can be an assault. It is not necessary that the other party should receive an actual injury, but there must have been a hostile intent. In modern usage the term assault will now include a battery, ie the actual application of force as opposed to its threatened use, and this is how it is used in most statutes. But if a charge alleges 'did assault and batter' then 'assault' will be taken to mean assault in its pure form and the charge will be as bad as being duplicitous. If anything other than 'did assault' is to be alleged it should be 'did assault by beating'.

A reckless act which causes injury will suffice, for example a man who having fallen to the ground when struggling with the police lashed out wildly with his legs, striking the officer and fracturing a bone in his hand, was held to have been properly convicted. Just placing a hand on someone's shoulder to call his attention to something is not an assault. Throwing something at a person, even if it misses, may be an assault.

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