Assault and offences of violence
The following is intended to provide a short guide to assault and offences of violence for those under investigation or subject to prosecution for those alleged offences. You may have been arrested and/or interviewed by the police. You may have been ‘released under investigation’ or on bail (possibly with conditions not to go back to the family home). As there can be serious consequences arising from a conviction it is important that you seek legal advice at an early stage.
What is an assault?
Assault is an act which causes another to fear immediate unlawful violence. If there is physical contact, this is known as ‘battery’.
Offences involving assault increase in their seriousness from common assault and battery to murder.
Types of offence
The main offences are:
- Common assault/battery
- Assault occasioning actual bodily harm (‘ABH’)
- Grievous bodily harm (with or without intent) (‘GBH’)
What is the difference between the offences?
There are charging standards set by the Crown Prosecution Service but there is a complicated inter-play between the offences as a matter of law. For example, assault occasioning actual bodily only requires some evidence of injury as a matter of law but this offence tends only to be charged where the circumstances of the assault are more serious. Grievous bodily harm requires the injury to be serious but whether it is charged as an offence under section 20 of the Offences of the Person Act 1861 or the more serious offence under section 18, will be determined by whether it is alleged that serious injury was intended. Often, this will depend on whether weapons have been used or the nature of the incident.
What is likely to happen if you are accused of assault?
The police will want to interview you under caution in the first instance. Please see our guide to police investigations.
You should take legal advice on the availability of any defence. The most common defence in assault cases is self-defence. What might constitute self-defence will depend on a number of factors. In the case of murder, there are also partial defences that may result in a manslaughter verdict being returned: diminished responsibility, loss of control (which replaced the common law partial defence of provocation) and killing pursuant to a suicide act.
Common assault is a ‘summary only’ offence, meaning it can only be tried in the magistrates’ court. ABH and GBH “either way” offences. This means that you will be able to elect to be tried in the Crown Court by a jury, rather than in the Magistrates’ Court. Your solicitor will advise you on the pros and cons of each venue. In some cases (including most GBH cases), the Magistrates will decline jurisdiction because the case is too serious. Murder and manslaughter are ‘indictable only’ and can only be tried in the Crown Court. See our separate guides to prosecution and going to court and Crown Court trials.
How are assault offences sentenced?
Whilst common assault is imprisonable, a sentence of imprisonment would be unlikely for a first offence. For more serious offences of violence, sentences of imprisonment will depend on factors determined by sentencing guidelines. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on the likely sentence in the event of conviction or a guilty plea.
Why should I instruct Brett Wilson LLP
Our London based team of Criminal defence solicitors is listed in Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500 as a leading firm in the field of criminal defence. Brett Wilson LLP’s criminal defence team is headed up by Nick Brett, who is ranked as a leading individual in both directories. We are frequently instructed by corporates, professionals and high net worth individuals who prioritise the protection of their reputation and require expert help with assault investigations or prosecutions. Our criminal defence solicitors specialise in allegations of assault & have a proven track record defending cases.
How do I Instruct Brett Wilson LLP?
You should contact one of our team to discuss your case and arrange a preliminary consultation. At the consultation we will advise you on the investigation, talk through the relevant practical and legal issues, and set out your options. We will review relevant documentation ahead of the consultation. The consultation will help you understand your position and allow you to make an informed decision about what action to take. We will provide you with details of our fee structure.
Consultations take place in our London offices or by Skype/telephone. We can also travel to you.
To request a consultation please send us an email, complete our online enquiry form or call us on 020 7183 8950. If emailing or using the online form, please provide a short outline of your situation.
Details of the cost of a consultation will be provided following your enquiry.