What is assault?
Assault is a type of offence which can relate to a number of specific charges. In general, UK law defines assault as inflicting intentional or reckless harm on another person. There are a number of different kinds of assault, which represent different levels of severity. The type of assault a case represents is judged according to factors such as the level of injury and the motivation for the crime.
- Common assault and battery
- Actual bodily harm (ABH)
- Grievous bodily harm (GBH)
- Grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent
What is battery?
Battery is a type of assault involving unlawful physical contact. Many charges of battery are brought alongside the charge of common assault. The two are often combined because common assault requires only that the victim was made to believe that they were going to be harmed. Battery, on the other hand, means that harm was actually caused.
If you give someone reason to believe that you’re going to punch them, but then don’t do it, you can be charged with straightforward common assault. If you actually do punch them, then you can be charged with common assault in the guise of battery.
However, the charge of battery is the most minor charge associated with an assault that causes physical harm. This means that the victim suffered minor harm, perhaps trifling or transient injuries, such as just bruises or surface cuts. Meanwhile cases of actual or grievous bodily harm involve more serious injury, such as broken bones, or damage to the victim’s eyes or nose.
How is assault and/or battery prosecuted?
Cases of assault are prosecuted differently according to their severity. Common assault and battery charges must stay in the magistrates court, unless the circumstances surrounding the assault make it too serious. For more serious types of assault involving ABH or GBH, cases will often be tried at the Crown Court. Evidence in assault cases may come from eye-witnesses, CCTV footage, photos of injuries and expert testimony. However, in some cases the victim’s testimony may be the primary evidence, although it is not always necessary that the prosecution have this if there is other admissible evidence, such as CCTV or a police officer’s body camera footage or simply an admission under caution by the suspect.
Your lawyer may be able to argue that you acted in self-defence, did not use excessive force, and were protecting yourself and/or a family member or friend. This will all depend on what instructions we are given by our client. They may also present mitigating factors, for example showing that you suffered extreme provocation, or that you were only a minor party to an assault perpetrated by a group of people.
What is the sentence for assault and/or battery?
Since assault charges can vary in severity, sentences can also vary for those found guilty, from fines and community orders to longer prison sentences.
Prison sentences can be given in cases of assault. Cases involving ABH or GBH can involve lengthier sentences, for example you could be given up to five years in prison if you are found guilty of ABH. The most serious cases of GBH involving an intent to cause those injuries can have sentences up to and including life imprisonment.
Cases of common assault and battery are often heard in the magistrates court and, especially if they are first offences, may result in fines of up to £5000 or community orders. However in some circumstances, if you have previous convictions or if the assault was racially or religiously motivated, common assault and battery cases may be tried in the Crown Court and you could receive a prison sentence of up to 26 months.
I have been accused of a crime. What should I do?
Being accused of a crime puts you in a very difficult and stressful situation. There is a lot at stake, so don’t underestimate the seriousness of the situation, but at the same time, don’t panic. There are solutions and there are people who can help.
The first thing you must do is to seek legal advice from an expert criminal defence solicitor experienced in assault and/or battery. Even if you are innocent or have not been charged yet, it is crucial to get expert legal advice. Your solicitor will guide you through the process and identify a strategy to get you the best possible outcome. Depending on your individual case in the initial stages, they may recommend that you:
- Don’t speak to the police without your solicitor present.
- Keep any evidence which could be relevant to your case, this could be clothing, payment receipts, emails or text messages etc.
- Make a note of anyone who might have been a witness to the incident or who might have relevant information, and give your lawyer their contact details.
Lawtons solicitors have the expertise and experience and will work with you to ensure you are fairly represented and that the best outcome is achieved in accordance with the facts of the case. For more information on legal proceedings surrounding assault and battery charges or to discuss an individual case in complete confidence, please do not hesitate to contact us.