Crime CIII – s.18 and s.20 of the Offences Against Person Act (1861) IX

3. Inflict – the word inflict includes both direct and indirect harm and it could either be intentional or due to the defendant’s recklessness. In R v Martin (1881) the defendant shut the doors at a theater and placed a crossbar across the door. He then switched off the lights on a staircase and yelled “fire”. His actions caused a panic and some of those that were in attendance were injured when they rushed out.

It was held that the defendant, regardless of the fact that he was merely playing a prank, must be deemed to have intended the consequences of his actions and he was found guilty accordingly.

In R v Wilson (1984) the defendant hit a pedestrian (the victim) with his vehicle and a heated argument subsequently ensued during the course of which the defendant punched the victim.

It was held that ‘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, though it is not itself a direct application of force to the body of the victim, it does directly result in force being directly applied violently to the body of the victim so that he suffers grievous bodily harm’

With regards or reference to psychiatric illnesses, inflict is construed as causing or precipitating the illness and does not require proof of assault or battery and nor does it require direct or indirect force. The defendant’s persistent and often repeated actions can be construed as inflicting, when the psychiatric illness does occur.

In R v Burstow (1997) the defendant and the victim were in a brief relationship which the victim unexpectedly ended. Unhappy with the victim’s decision, the defendant harassed the victim for several months making repeated phone calls, sending her threatening letters, turning up unexpectedly and speaking to her neighbors. The defendant’s actions caused the victim to succumb to a psychiatric illness (severe depression).

The questions before the courts were as follows: –

1.     Are words alone sufficient to constitute an assault and
2.   Does psychiatric illness (injury) fall within the scope of s. 18, s. 20 and s. 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and can it be defined as bodily harm.

It was decided that on: –

1.     Words are sufficient to constitute an assault.
2.     Psychiatric illness (injury) does fall under the scope of bodily harm or can be classified or categorized as bodily harm.

Copyright © 2019 by Dyarne Ward


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