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Flashcards in Non-Fatal Offences Deck (6)
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Briefly explain what an assault is, and state the act that sets it out.

By s39 CJA 1988, an assault is a summary offence with a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine. It is an act by which the defendant intentionally or recklessly causes the victim to apprehend immediate and unlawful personal violence.


Identify the actus reus of an assault.

The actus reus of an assault occurs where the defendant causes the victim to apprehend immediate and unlawful personal violence.


Can words constitute an assault? Illustrate your answer using the cases of Constanza (1997), Logdon v DPP (1976) and Ireland & Burstow (1997).

In Constanza (1997), V suffered clinical depression after D sent over 800 threatening letters, drove past and followed her home, wrote offensive words on her front door, and stole items from her washing line. D was charged with ABH under s47 OAPA 1861 but contended that words alone could not amount to an assault as there was no immediacy. His conviction was upheld because the jury were of the view that immediacy was present and that words can amount to an assault.

In Logdon v DPP (1976), D pointed a gun at V, as a joke, who was terrified until she was told that it was in fact a replica. The court held that V apprehended immediate physical violence, and D had been at least reckless as to whether this would occur. D was guilty.

In Ireland & Burstow (1997), Ds' (separate trials) made a large number of silent phone calls to Vs'. A psychiatrist stated that as a result of the repeated calls, each of them had suffered psychological damage. The silent calls caused fear of immediate and unlawful violence so Ds' were guilty of an assault. Lord Steyn stated that "an assault can consist of any act causing V to apprehend an immediate application of force upon her". Thus, an assault might be committed by words or gestures alone.


Can words prevent an assault? Illustrate your answer using Tuberville v Savage (1669) and Light (1857).

In Tuberville v Savage (1669), D put his hand on his sword and stated "If it were not assize-time, I would not take such language from you." Assize-time is when the judges were in the town for court sessions. It was held that this did not amount to an assault as the words indicated that no violence would ensue.

In Light (1857), D raised a sword above his wife's hear and said "Were it not for the bloody policeman outside, I would split your head open." It was held that this was an assault. The wife feared that force was going to be used on here and the words in the circumstances were not enough to deny that fear.


Does there have to be an immediate threat? Illustrate using Smith v CS of WPS (1983), Ireland & Burstow (1997), and Ramos (2000).

In Smith v CS of WPS (1983), D peered through V's window late at night. V saw him and screamed, but he did not move and kept staring. She phoned the police and he was charged with an offence under the Vagrancy Act 1864 which requires proof of an assault. He was convicted and appealed, contending that the prosecution had failed to establish whether V had apprehended immediate unlawful personal violence. He accepted that she was frightened but that she could not have been frightened of personal violence as he was outside, and she was inside. His conviction was upheld.

In Ireland & Burstow (1997), it was held that immediacy existed where there were silent phone calls.

In Ramos (2000), D was charged with distributing letters that were threatening, abusive, or insulting with intent to cause a person to believe that immediate force or violence would be used against them (s4 Public Order Act 1986 - s31 Crime and Disorder Act 1988). He had threatened a bomb campaign. The District Judge decided that since no time had been mentioned for the proposed attack, this lacked the immediacy required by the statute.


Identify the mens rea of an assault.

This is an intention (oblique - Woollin [1997]) to cause the victim to fear the infliction of immediate and unlawful violence or recklessness (Cunningham) whether such fear would be caused.