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Criminal | Offences Against The Person

Non-Fatal Offences: Battery Liability

Revision Note | A Level

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  • battery consists of an act where D intentionally or recklessly applies unlawful physical force to another person
  • difference between assault and battery, is that assault is committed when V believes he is likely to be subjected harm, battery does not take place until force is applied

Actus reus

  • actus reus satisfied when physical force is applied
  • law takes view that a person has the right to be protected from molestation
  • jurist William Blackstone , wrote in 1760s: .. the law cannot draw the line between different degrees of violence and therefore prohibits the first and lowest stage of it - every man's person being sacred and no other having a right to meddle with it in the slightest manner...

Physical force

  • low threshold for physical force required for battery

    Collins v Wilcock (1984)

    • D, a police officer, had taken hold of V’s arm in order to detain, but had no intention to arrest, sufficient for battery
    • Lord Goff: .. the fundamental principle, plain and incontestable is that every person’s body is inviolate. It has long been established that any touching of another person, however slight, may amount to a battery...
  • touching clothes may be sufficient

    Thomas (1985)

    • D, a caretaker, was charged with indecent assault after taking hold of a 12 yr old girl’s skirt, no evidence of act being indecent
    • court said if D touches V’s clothing, while V is wearing them is equivalent to touching V


  • consent can make touching lawful
  • implied consent in everyday activities

    Collins v Wilcock (1984)

    • Lord Goff: ..consent is a defence to battery; and most of the physical contacts of ordinary life are not actionable because they are impliedly consented to by all who move in society...

Continuing acts

  • continuing acts may create liability

    Fagan v Metropolitan Police Commissioner (MPC) (1969)

    • D accidently stopped his car on a V’s foot, a policeman
    • V asked D to remove the car, D replied Fuck off, you can wait!
    • D found guilty of causing injury to V as leaving the car on the foot was seen as a continuing act
    • .. it matters not in our judgment, whether the battery is inflicted directly by the body of the offender or through the medium of some weapon or instrument controlled by the action of the offender...

Indirect acts

  • indirect acts may be sufficient

    Martin (1881)

    • D placed iron bar across exit door in a theatre, turned off the lights and shouted fire, Vs were injured in subsequent chaos
    • D’s conduct found to amount to battery

    Haystead (2000)

    • D punched his girlfriend, causing her to drop her baby onto the floor
    • D guilty of battery on the baby


  • unlike assault, in limited circumstances battery may be committed through an omission
  • for example, where D has created a dangerous situation and failed to act

    Santana Bermudez (2004)

    • D injured V, police officer, by allowing her to search him, knowing he had hypodermic needles in his pockets
    • court found D’s failure to warn about the danger was sufficient actus reus for battery

Mens rea

  • satisfied if there is intention to apply physical force or recklessness that force will be applied

    Venna (1976)

    • D arrested for a public order offence, D struggled violently with V, police officer, causing him injury
    • D found to be reckless as to whether he caused harm to V
    • .. We see no reason in logic or in law why a person who recklessly applies physical force to the person of another should be outside the law of criminal assault...
  • necessary mens rea may be transferred to unintended Vs

    Latimer (1886)

    • D aimed to a attack a men with a belt in a pub, belt bounced off the man and struck
    • D guilty of battery although he had not meant to hit V
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