What constitutes a common assault?

Common assault is a criminal offence under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, and is committed when someone assaults another person or commits a battery.

Assault: Physical contact does not have to occur for an assault to take place. If the defendant causes another person to fear violence, this is enough to be classed as assault, for example if the defendant raises their fist to the victim.

For example, if a person throws a glass at someone and misses, this could still be classed as assault.

Battery: To commit battery, the defendant must actually apply unlawful force to the victim. For example, slapping or spitting at them.

For example, if a person throws a glass at someone and it hits them, this could be classed as battery.

What does the prosecution have to prove to establish common assault?

The prosecution must be able to prove that the defendant intended to cause the victim to feel that violence will be used against them. Without this proof, there is no grounds for assault, unless the defendant has behaved in such a reckless and thoughtless way that the victim was apprehensive of a violent act occurring.

What is the definition of recklessness?

If a person is aware that there is a possibility that their act could cause another person to apprehend immediate violence, and they still take the risk and proceed with the action, this is recklessness.

Will I go to prison for common assault?

If you’re convicted of common assault, you could be looking at a maximum prison sentence of six months, and/or a fine or a community service order.

Remember: prison sentences are usually handed down for cases where serious injury was caused, or in the case of repeat offenders. If the attack was made towards a disabled person, or was racially motivated, the chance of going to prison is higher.