Crime CX – s.47 of the Offences Against Person Act (1861) VII


For the purposes of s47 of the Offences Against the Person Act (1861) actual bodily harm is defined as any act that causes a break in the continuity of the skin see JJC v Eisenhower (1984), any acts that precipitate or induce a psychiatric illness see R v Burstow (1997) and R v Ireland (1998) and it also includes any act that falls within the ordinary meaning of the term “actual bodily harm” which includes causing cuts, bruises, lacerations etc. to another.

It also includes acts that may seem trivial to others but impacts the victim’s emotional well-being for example the cutting-off of the victim’s hair without the consent of the victim.

In DPP v Smith (2006) the defendant went over to his ex-girlfriend’s house and cut off her pony tail with a pair of kitchen scissors and while there was no physical injury or there was no break in the continuity of the skin, the victim was distressed, and the defendant was charged with occasioning actual bodily harm. At first instance the magistrate concluded that there was no actual bodily harm (ABH) and the DPP appealed.

On appeal it was decided that the cutting-off of another’s hair, without the person's consent, does constitute an offence that falls under s47 of the Offences Against the Person Act (1861).

As long as it is regarded or considered to be part of the body regardless of whether it is on the surface of the skin or beneath the surface of the skin, on the head or on the scalp, regardless of whether the tissue is alive or dead, any damage to it will fall under s47 of the Offences Against the Person Act (1861).

Furthermore, a person’s hair is regarded as an integral part of a person’s identity and it is intrinsic to who the person is and how that person wants to be perceived by others and to cause damage to it (the hair) is to cause damage to not only the person but also to the person’s identity.

Copyright © 2019 by Dyarne Ward

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