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CASES ON NON-FATAL OFFENCES
1. COMMON LAW ASSAULT AND BATTERY
Logdon v DPP  Crim LR 121.
The defendant, as a joke, pointed a gun at the victim who was terrified until
she was told that it was in fact a replica. The court held that the victim had
apprehended immediate physical violence, and the defendant had been at least
reckless as to whether this would occur.
Smith v Superintendent of Woking Police Station  Crim LR 323.
The defendant had terrified a woman occupying a ground floor flat by staring
in through the windows at her. The Divisional Court was satisfied that even
though the defendant was outside the building there was evidence to suggest that
the victim was terrified by the prospect of some immediate violence. It was not
necessary for the prosecution to establish precisely what the victim feared
would happen; a general apprehension of violence was sufficient.
Tuberville v Savage (1669) 2 Keb 545.
The defendant placed his hand on his sword hilt and told the victim, “If
it were not assize-time, I would not take such language from you.” This was
held not to be an assault. The words accompanying the action (of placing the
hand on the sword) clearly demonstrated that because the assize judge was in
town, the defendant was not going to use his sword. There could thus be no
apprehension of immediate force.
2. ASSAULT OCCASIONING ACTUAL BODILY HARM
R v Roberts (1971) 56 Cr App R 95.
The defendant gave a lift in his car, late at night to a girl. He made
unwanted advances of a sexual nature to her which alarmed her. She feared he
intended to rape her and as the car was moving, she opened the door and jumped
out suffering grazing and concussion. The defendant was convicted under s47 and
Stephenson LJ stated that the test for causation in law was to ask whether the
result was the reasonably foreseeable consequence of what the defendant was
saying or doing.
R v Constanza  Crim LR 576
The defendant was convicted of occasioning actual bodily harm. The victim was
a female ex-colleague. Between October 1993 and June 1995 he followed her home
from work, made numerous silent telephone calls, sent over 800 letters,
repeatedly drove past her home, visited her against her expressed wishes, and on
three occasions wrote offensive words on her front door. In June 1995 the victim
received two further letters which she interpreted as clear threats. She
believed that he had “flipped” and that he might do something to her
at any time. In July she was diagnosed as suffering from clinical depression and
anxiety. It was the doctor’s view that the defendant’s actions had caused this
The Court of Appeal held that the issue before the Court was whether it was
enough if the Crown have proved a fear of violence at some time not excluding
the immediate future. In the Court’s view it was. It was an important factor
that the defendant lived near the victim and she thought that something could
happen at any time. The judge was entitled to leave to the jury the question
whether or not she had a fear of immediate violence, and the jury were entitled
to find that she did. The Court rejected the defence submission that a person
cannot have a fear of immediate violence unless they can see the potential
perpetrator. It rejected a further submission that an assault could not be
committed by words alone without a physical action. The indictment made it clear
that the assault relied on was that constituted by the last letter.
3. MALICIOUSLY WOUNDING OR MALICIOUSLY INFLICTING GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM
R v Martin (1881) 8 QBD 54.
The defendant blocked the exit doors of a theatre, put out the lights in a
passageway, and shouted ‘Fire!’ as the theatre-goers were leaving the
performance. In the ensuing panic, many were severely injured by being crushed
against the locked doors. The defendant was convicted under s20 and appealed.
His conviction was confirmed and it is implicit in the decision that the
indirect nature of the way in which the defendant’s acts had caused the harm
presented no bar to liability.
The defendant motorist had been involved in an argument with a pedestrian,
which culminated in the defendant punching the pedestrian in the face. Lord
“In our opinion, grievous bodily harm may be inflicted… either where
the accused has directly and violently “inflicted” it by assaulting
the victim, or where the accused has “inflicted” it by doing
something, intentionally, which, although it is not itself a direct application
of force to the body of the victim, does directly result in force being applied
violently to the body of the victim, so that he suffers grievous bodily
R v Mowatt  1 QB 421.
The defendant was convicted under s20 following an attack he had carried out
on a police officer, during which he had rained blows on the officer’s face and
pushed him roughly to the ground. Regarding the term ‘maliciously’ Lord Diplock
“In the offence under section 20… the word “maliciously”
does import upon the part of the person who unlawfully inflicts the wound or
other grievous bodily harm an awareness that his act may have the consequence of
causing some physical harm to some other person… It is quite unnecessary that
the accused should have foreseen that his unlawful act might cause physical harm
of the gravity described in the section, ie a wound or serious physical injury.
It is enough that he should have foreseen that some physical harm to some
person, albeit of a minor character, might result.”
DPP v Parmenter .
The defendant had caused injury to his young baby by tossing him about in a
way which would have been acceptable with an older child, but not with one so
young. He did not realise that he might cause harm by this action. The House of
Lords held that he could not be liable under s20 as he had not foreseen the risk
of any harm. It was not necessary under s20 that he foresee the grievous bodily
harm which must be caused, but the defendant must foresee that he might cause
some harm. An alternative verdict under s47 was substituted.
R v Sullivan  Crim LR 46.
The defendant, who had swerved his car towards a group of pedestrians
intending to scare them was acquitted of a charge under s20, when he lost
control of the vehicle and subsequently collided with the pedestrians causing
injury. As he had only foreseen the risk of ‘psychic harm’ his liability was
reduced to s47.
R v Belfon  1 WLR 741.
The defendant had slashed the victim with a razor causing severe wounds to
his face and chest. The Court of Appeal held that in order to establish the
offence under s18 it was essential to prove the specific intent. References to
the defendant foreseeing that such harm was likely to result or that he had been
reckless as to whether such harm would result, would be insufficient.
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