What is an Assault?

Assault and Battery

We are often asked to represent clients charged with an assault or battery. “But I didn’t hit anyone”, they’ll say. Or, “I only knocked into them, I didn’t batter anyone”, not realising a simple knock or even no knock at all will suffice for an assault or battery charge.

An assault, or common assault being the correct term is when the apprehension of immediate unlawful violence is caused to another. It can be committed intentionally or recklessly. Recklessly means when a risk of assault is foreseeable but the risk is taken anyway. An example would be a person throwing a mobile phone at another and missing.

Battery is when unlawful force or violence is used on someone. Like a common assault, it is committed intentionally or recklessly and an example would be if the mobile phone that was thrown, actually hits the other person.

It is for the Prosecution to prove it was committed intentionally or recklessly by the defendant.

What is the Punishment?

s39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 sets out the punishment for both assault and battery. They can only be heard in the Magistrates Court and carry a maximum punishment of 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine.

However, if an offence is found to be racially/religiously aggravated under the Crime and Disorder Act 1988 then it becomes an either way offence, meaning it could be sent to the Crown Court. Very often we have a client who admits assaulting a person but denies the racial element of the offence. It is always best to seek legal advice.

Is there a Defence?

The most common defence used for a charge of common assault/battery is self defence, or defence of another. It is always best to seek legal advice. There is often a fine line between self defence and retaliation in the moment and a solicitor will be able to advise accordingly.


At John Onions Solicitors we have been representing clients for many years and we know that no case is the same. If you have been charged with an assault, or any other criminal matter, please contact one of our specialists here, or call 01926 886007.