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Charged with or Accused of Assault and Battery? What Are Your Options?

You may face assault and battery charges if you intentionally or recklessly cause someone to expect that excessive or unlawful force is about to be used against them. This includes creating a sense of fear, which includes where someone may pretend to engage in a more serious offence. Even in situations where there is no contact between you and the victim, you may face assault charges.

Common assault, which includes a battery charge, is outlined in s.39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.


Common Examples of Actions That Result in Assault Charges

Some common examples of actions that may result in assault charges include:

  • Trying to spit on someone
  • Acting like you are going to kick, punch, or hit another person
  • Using a deadly or non-deadly weapon in a manner that shows the victim may suffer harm because of the
  • Shaking your fist at another person
  • Making a racist or threatening comment

Victims of common assault must only feel like they have been threatened by someone else. There’s no requirement for physical contact to occur.


Understanding What Results in a Battery Charge

A battery charge is different from an assault charge. The main factor that makes it different is that with battery, unlawful contact between you and another person occurs. A battery charge will be filed if you recklessly or intentionally apply some level of unlawful force to someone else. This may or may not cause an injury.

Some common examples of actions that may result in you facing a battery charge include:

  • Slapping
  • Punching
  • Pushing
  • Spitting
  • Hurting someone using a weapon

The victim of this action may suffer only minor injuries or none at all. The use of force is enough to result in this situation. A more serious injury that is caused by some type of unlawful contact is dealt with as either GBH or ABH. This includes everything from a minor scratch to a broken bone.


Potential Consequences for Assault and Battery Charges

The potential sentence for assault or battery will vary based on how serious the crime is and the circumstances of the offence. In most cases, in the UK, sentences for charges of assault and battery typically include a fine of up to £5,000 and up to six months in prison.

Adley Gray Common Assault Solicitors


What is Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)?

ABH is a criminal offence under Section 47 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.The main difference between ABH and charges of common assault is that ABH requires a degree of injury and common assault doesn’t. ABH charges require that a tangible injury occurs and goes beyond just trivial ones.

The terms ABH and GBH, which mean grievous bodily harm, are terms used for describing how severe an injury is if there is an unlawful application of force. It’s considered a much more serious type of battery.

Some common examples of ABH include:

  • Punching
  • Attack using a weapon
  • Attack with another object to cause harm

In situations where ABH is charged, the injuries sustained by the victim are usually minor, even if the victim requires hospital treatment.

When ABH occurs, the common injuries that are seen include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruises
  • Grazes

What is Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)?

When attacks are especially violent, involve a weapon like a plank of wood, knife, or something similar, or are premeditated, the attack is considered GBH. This is considered a criminal offence under Sections 18 and 20 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

GBH is unique from ABH because GBH will result in serious injuries to the victim caused by an intentional or premeditated attack (this is true for s18 cases). It can also occur because of reckless conduct that causes serious harm (in s20 cases). With an increased level of seriousness, the potential sentence will be longer, with some cases resulting in penalties of up to life in prison.

GBH is also called “wounding.” This occurs when the layers of the victim’s skin are broken by the excessive or unlawful application of force.

Common examples of GBH include:

  • Skull fractures
  • Lacerations
  • Injuries that impair cognition, motor skills, and vision
  • Broken bones

How Are Charges of Assault or Battery Prosecuted?

If you are charged with assault, the prosecution depends on the severity of the charge. For example, charges of common assault and battery will stay in the magistrate’s court. This changes if the circumstances around the assault make it a more serious crime. For serious assault charges, which involve GBH or ABH, the cause will likely be tried at the Crown Court level. The evidence used for assault cases includes things like:

  • Testimony from eyewitnesses
  • CCTV footage
  • Expert testimony
  • Photos of injuries

While this is true, in some situations, the testimony from the victim could be the main source of evidence used; however, it is not always needed if there is other types of admissible even, such as footage from the police officer’s body camera or a suspect’s admission under caution.

The solicitor you hire may be able to successfully argue that your actions were in self-defence, that you did not use excessive force, or that you were protecting yourself, a friend, or a family member. All this depends on the instructions that are given. There may also be mitigating factors that come into play. For example, it may be possible to show that you were exposed to extreme provocation or that you were a minor party to a situation of assault that was started by an entire group of people.

Common Questions About Assault, Battery, GBH, and ABH

Due to the seriousness of these charges, it’s important to know as much as possible about them. Learn the answers to some of the most asked questions here.

Can assault be charged for verbal threats?

Assault occurs when someone is fearful that cases of unlawful force are going to be used against them. This may be expected if someone shouts, uses racist language, or makes threats.

Can an assault charge be made for situations that are non-physical?

This can happen. The definition of common assault is actions that are non-physical. If a physical assault occurs, then it is a battery charged based on UK law.

Can you face assault charges without battery charges?

Yes. Any type of threatening action that makes someone else feel threatened or fear that someone is about to use some type of physical violence against them is assault.

How will assault charges impact you and your life?

If you are convicted of assault charges, then it is going to remain on your criminal record for the remainder of your life. However, after a specific amount of time, the charge will be viewed as “spent.” The amount of time this takes depends on the sentence you receive.

After a conviction, you will likely experience issues getting and keeping a job. That’s because DBS checks will show “unspent” convictions on your record. If a potential employer conducts an advanced DBS check, it can also show “spent convictions” in some cases if the crime is considered relevant to the job in question.

How many years in jail can you receive as a consequence of an assault conviction?

In the UK, the maximum prison sentence for common assault and battery convictions is six months. You may also face fines of £5,000. For an ABH conviction, the maximum prison sentence is five years. If you receive a section 20 GBH, then the maximum prison sentence is seven years, and a section 18 GBH with intent comes with a potential maximum prison sentence of life in prison.

Keep in mind that not everyone who is convicted of these crimes will receive the maximum sentence. With a well-presented defense, you can receive a reduced sentence for the charges you are facing.

Can you have your assault charges be dropped?

There are a few situations when the charges you may be facing could be dropped. If there is not enough evidence and the charges are based on you defending yourself, they may be dropped too. In some situations, if the victim of the assault does not want to pursue charges, then they may be dropped.

How long can you wait to report cases of assault?

If you have evidence that the assault occurred, there is no time limit to the amount of time you can wait until you inform your solicitor or the police. While it is a good idea to report the situation as soon as possible, you do have time to do so, as well.

What will happen if the assault has been provoked?

Provocation alone isn’t a viable defence for assault charges. However, cases of self-defence is considered a full defence. Determining if self-defence is a viable defence is dependent on the situation and something your solicitor can help you with. Usually, the jury, magistrates, or judge will determine if this is a defence you can use for your case and situation. You need to make sure that you disclose this information to the solicitor you have hired immediately so they can begin building a solid defence strategy for your situation.

What will happen if your assault case occurred while you were intoxicated?

This is a situation that is dependent on the circumstances, as well. If both parties happened to be intoxicated, then the defence strategy may still be viable. While voluntary intoxication may eliminate the possibility of claiming self-defence, it is something you should talk to with your solicitor. They will be able to determine if it is something you can use during your case.

Is it possible to get out of assault charges?

If you are charged with assault, or if you believe you may face assault charges, contact a solicitor for assistance. This will help you with your case and give you the best possible outcome for the situation.


Do you require more information on the following topics?

What Constitutes GBH with Intent in the UK?

What is Affray and What Can You Do If You are Charged with Affray?

What happens after you have been questioned by the police under caution?

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