Assault or common assault

An assault is defined as intentionally or recklessly causing the victim to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence.

The law relating to non-fatal offences against the person is to be found in the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

An assault (sometimes referred to as common assault) is defined as intentionally or recklessly causing the victim to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence.  

The actus reus of assault is the causing of the victim to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence HL Regina v. Burstow Regina v. Ireland.  

The mens rea of assault is to cause such fear or apprehension either intentionally or recklessly.  

There were two forms of recklessness up until the House of Lords decision in the case of G and Another i.e. Cunningham recklessness and Caldwell recklessness.  Cunningham recklessness is the subjective form, and Caldwell recklessness being the objective form.  It is the Cunningham style recklessness that is required.

There is no need for the use of force or contact and examples might include such conduct as shaking a fist or brandishing a knife or other weapon.  In the past there have been doubts whether words alone would be sufficient.  However in Constanza 1997 the Court of Appeal clearly held that an assault could be committed by the use of words alone. 

The case of Regina v. Ireland  is also helpful. This case involved the terrorising of women by silent phone calls. 

Lord Steyn took the view that 'It is easy to understand the terrifying effect of a campaign of telephone calls at night by a silent caller to a woman living on her own. It would be natural for the victim to regard the calls as menacing. What may heighten her fear is that she will not know what the caller may do next'.

The House of Lords decided that this would also be enough to amount to an assault in certain circumstances.

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