Crime CVIII – s.47 of the Offences Against Person Act (1861) V

The actus reus (physical element) that needs to be established to obtain a conviction for a s47 offence is usually assault and battery but assault per se would suffice as long as it was done repeatedly and done with the intention to intimidate the victim see R v Burstow (1997) and R v Ireland (1998).

Battery is a summary offence i.e. an offence that is tried at a magistrate’s courts. It is an offence that in most instances follows an assault. The defendant first verbally abuses or intimidates the victim and soon after carries out his or her threat by using some form of physical violence.

Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 gives us an idea of the offence. The section reads as follows: –

“Common assault and battery shall be summary offences and a person guilty of either of them shall be liable to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both”.

However in order for the defendant to be guilty of battery the act must be unlawful. A defendant has a valid excuse to use force:-

1.     When he or she is trying to defend himself or herself. At common law anyone is allowed to use reasonable force to protect himself or herself.
2.     When the defendant is trying to prevent a crime as per s.3 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1967. The act reads as follows:-

“A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large”.

What amounts to reasonable force is a question of fact and it is for a court or a jury to decide.

Copyright © 2019 by Dyarne Ward


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