In England and Wales, the number of offenders convicted of common assault has been decreasing in recent years, from 50,800 in 2015 to 36,900 in 2018 (sentencingcouncil.org.uk). Criminal assault and assault allegations can be complex and confusing, particularly when there are multiple witnesses or conflicting accounts.
That’s where criminal defence solicitors come in – they can help you navigate the legal system and give you the best chance of achieving a favourable outcome. To get help from a criminal defence solicitor, contact our team on 0161 344 2244 or request a callback.
What is criminal assault?
Assault is defined as an attempt to apply unlawful force to another person, which may or may not result in actual physical contact. Assault is often considered a violent crime, and there are various levels of assault, ranging from minor offences such as assault and battery to more serious offences such as aggravated assault.
What are the different types of criminal assault?
There are different types of assaults which are as follows;
Common assault (Section 39, Criminal Justice Act 1988)
Common assault is the least serious type of assault and is dealt with only at Magistrates Court. The maximum sentence is six months imprisonment. In a common offence charge, no physical violence needs to follow the threat. However, if there is physical violence, then the offence would be battery or assault by beating.
Examples of common assault include verbally threatening or spitting at someone. It can also involve physical violence, such as pushing someone during an argument or slapping someone in the face.
Actual bodily harm (Section 47 Offences against the Person Act 1861)
Assault causing actual bodily harm is more serious. It is committed when a person assaults another, thereby causing Actual Bodily Harm (ABH). This offence is either way offence which means it can be heard at the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court, depending on the seriousness of the offence. It has a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.
This type of assault involves causing physical injury to another person. This injury may not be permanent.
Grievous bodily harm (Section 20 Offences Against the Person Act 1861)
Grievous Bodily Harm is committed when a person unlawfully and maliciously wounds or inflicts any grievous bodily harm upon another person, either with or without a weapon or instrument.
It's an either-way offence which means it can be heard at the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court, depending on the seriousness of the offence. It has a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.
GBH involves causing serious physical injury to another person, such as breaking bones, causing serious infections, bodily disfigurements or organ damage. Injuries to the victims may be permanent.
Wounding / Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent (Section 18 Offences against the Person Act 1861)
Grievous Bodily Harm under section 18 is committed when a person unlawfully and maliciously, by any means whatsoever, wounds or causes any grievous bodily harm to any person with Intent to cause Grievous Bodily harm.
The offence is indictable only, which means it can only be heard at the Crown Court. The maximum sentence for section 18 assault is life imprisonment.
The difference between section 20 assault and section 18 assault is one of intent. The prosecution must prove that the defendant intended to wound and/or cause grievous bodily and nothing less than an intention to produce that result would suffice.
An example which suggests section 18 assault has launched a repeat or planned attack, deliberately selected a weapon to cause injury and made prior threats.
What should you do if you're accused of assault?
If you've been accused of assault, it's important to seek legal advice from a criminal defence solicitor as soon as possible. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on the best course of action and represent you in court.
Assault allegations can be complex, and the consequences of a conviction can be serious. Therefore, it's vital you have experienced legal representation to ensure your rights are protected.
How are sentences for criminal assault decided?
The sentence for assault will depend on various factors, such as the severity of the assault, the age and vulnerability of the victim, whether a weapon was used, or whether the assault was premeditated. The type of harm and culpability (sentencingcouncil.org.uk) are the two most important deciding factors.
When deciding on a sentence, judges will consider the defendant's character, whether they have shown signs of remorse, their criminal record, as well as any weapons used. Abuse of drugs and alcohol by the defendants will also be considered.
The sentence may be reduced if the defendant makes a guilty plea.
What to consider when defending yourself against an assault charge
When you are defending assault charges, the most important thing to consider is your legal representation. It is crucial that you have an experienced criminal defence solicitor who can represent you in court and give you the best chance of a favourable outcome.
Your solicitor will review the evidence against you and advise you on the best course of action. They may be able to negotiate with the prosecution to have your charges reduced or dropped altogether.
Your defence will depend on the circumstances of your case, but common defences against assault include self-defence, provocation and accident.