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UK common assault guide, a brief introduction
14 Jun 2021

Unfortunately assault charges are not uncommon; our criminal solicitor has a great deal of experience in representing those who are facing charges of assault and in gaining the most favourable outcomes possible in their cases, sometimes avoiding court proceedings entirely.

This is a brief outline of assault law in the UK.  It is not meant to be considered legal advice and is far less useful than actually having legal representation from an experienced criminal solicitor, as the nuances of your case cannot be explored in a short article.

Common assault

Common assault is considered the lowest level and most minor of the assault charges. Interestingly, it can actually occur with no force or even contact, as simply being made to feel that force will be or is about to be used against them is enough to justify a common assault charge being brought by someone.

Therefore this encompasses threatening gestures, threats and posturing even if no form of battery occurs.

If physical contact is made, regardless of any injuries or lack of these, this would be considered a battery or assault charge, which also includes spitting. It is often misunderstood that assault or battery charges require some degree of injury to occur; they do not and they can result in a prison sentence. With common assault holding a maximum sentencing of 6 months imprisonment with a fine. Such an outcome is usually unlikely unless there is a long history of previous assault charges, or the motivation is considered to be a form of hate crime for instance racially or religiously motivated.

Common assault of police officers or emergency workers during their duty

The sentencing of charges of assault committed against emergency workers and police officers whilst performing their duty is far more harsh than for those committed against the general population, as it is seen as causing the prevention of work which may save other lives; if you assault a nurse, you could inadvertently injure someone else who could have been helped by her.

In the case of police officers, such common assault often ends up breaching Section 38 of the Offences Against Persons Act and is considered assault with the intent to resist arrest, which has additional sentencing of 2 years.

Common assaults are dealt with in Magistrates Court and unless they are part of a longer charge sheet, they will not be seen in Crown Court. That said, common assault is still a serious offence that can result in prison time and can affect background checks and potential career opportunities in the future.

Use of a weapon in common assault

The use of a weapon in common assault, threatening whilst displaying some form of  weapon or improvised weapon, raises the charges and is no longer considered common assault. This would also be true if you employed or stated that you had a weapon on you even if you were not in possession of said weapon, leaving the victim to believe that they were at threat of actual bodily harm.

This is but a tip of the iceberg of the complexities and various legal interactions that exist in assault law in the UK; the guidance of an experienced criminal solicitor is of great value. If you are facing any charges of this nature please feel free to get in contact if you need further advice.

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