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Assault and Battery

Assault and Battery are two different offences of common law.

An assault is - "any act by which a person intentionally or recklessly causes another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful ad personal violence."

And a battery is - "any act by which a person, intentionally or recklessly inflicts unlawful personal violence upon another person."

Therefore a typical example of an assault would include where a person rides or drives at another person or shakes a fist under their nose, or points a loaded gun or knife at someone.By contrast, a battery requires that there must be some contact between the person who inflicts the violence and the victim.

Common assault is a common law offence.However by section 42 (and section 47) of the Offences Against the Persons Act (OAPA) a person committing any common assault or battery may be imprisoned or compelled to pay fines and costs.Section 42 therefore implies that there are offences committed either when someone is put in fear of unlawful violence (assault) or when there is an unlawful application of force to the person of another (battery).

In reality, common assault is only used in situations where a blow or another application of force is struck, but when no actual injury results.

Section 47 of the OAPA 1861 is concerned with assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm.The assault may or may not include battery in the sense of actual contact with the victim i.e. if someone strikes another with their fist causing injury, this will be an assault causing actual bodily harm, as will striking a horse with a whip causing the rider to fall and injure themselves.

Actual bodily harm simply means some bodily harm.

Section 20 of the OAPA 1861 is concerned with unlawfully and maliciously wounding or inflicting any grievous bodily harm upon another person.Unlawfully simply means without lawful excuse.

There are three possible lawful excuses, namely:-

a) Self defence

b) Accident

c) Consent

If any of these three ingredients are present then the defendant has a good defence in law.For the purpose of hunt sabotage it is only the first two which could apply.

Section 17 of the OAPA 1861 is concerned with causing grievous bodily harm (Grievous Bodily Harm simply means some serious harm.Wounding is any breaking of the skin).

The distinction between section 18 and 19 of this act is that there is an extra ingredient in the former which is commonly called "Specific Intent", that is the intention to cause really serious harm.

In many incidents it is not necessary for there to be a definition given of the specific intent to really cause serious harm. i.e. if the victim is sitting in their garden and someone approaches them from behind and splits their skull open with a pick-axe handle, then there can be no question of the intent to really seriously harm.

However, it's sometimes said that the definition includes a desire on the part of the assailant to cause really serious harm as opposed to the situation with section 20 where the assailant I simply reckless as to whether any such harm be caused.

The defence of self defence must be understood, it is obvious that a person in imminent danger of attack should be able to defend themselves. It must be stressed however that self defence does not include retaliation, revenge or retribution. Such acts would constitute an offence, and the fact that an assault might be in revenge or retaliation would only be useful in mitigation.

Remember that the force used by a person to defend themselves must be proportional to the force being used by the attacker.This is meant to be reasonable.Having said that, it should be noted that in the moment of anguish when a person is under attack, it may not be possible to weigh to a nicety the exact amount of defensive action and force required.Therefore if the reaction of the person under attack is an honest and instinctive reaction then that will go a long way towards satisfying the elements of reasonableness and necessity.

The Law

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