criminal law Cases

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CASES ON NON-FATAL OFFENCES

1. COMMON LAW ASSAULT AND BATTERY

Logdon v DPP [1976] Crim LR 121.

The defendant, as a joke, pointed a gun at the victim who was terrified until she was told that it was in fact a replica. The court held that the victim had apprehended immediate physical violence, and the defendant had been at least reckless as to whether this would occur.

Smith v Superintendent of Woking Police Station [1983] Crim LR 323.

The defendant had terrified a woman occupying a ground floor flat by staring in through the windows at her. The Divisional Court was satisfied that even though the defendant was outside the building there was evidence to suggest that the victim was terrified by the prospect of some immediate violence. It was not necessary for the prosecution to establish precisely what the victim feared would happen; a general apprehension of violence was sufficient.

Tuberville v Savage (1669) 2 Keb 545.

The defendant placed his hand on his sword hilt and told the victim, "If it were not assize-time, I would not take such language from you." This was held not to be an assault. The words accompanying the action (of placing the hand on the sword) clearly demonstrated that because the assize judge was in town, the defendant was not going to use his sword. There could thus be no apprehension of immediate force.

2. ASSAULT OCCASIONING ACTUAL BODILY HARM

R v Roberts (1971) 56 Cr App R 95.

The defendant gave a lift in his car, late at night to a girl. He made unwanted advances of a sexual nature to her which alarmed her. She feared he intended to rape her and as the car was moving, she opened the door and jumped out suffering grazing and concussion. The defendant was convicted under s47 and Stephenson LJ stated that the test for causation in law was to ask whether the result was the reasonably foreseeable consequence of what the defendant was saying or doing.

R v Constanza [1997] Crim LR 576

The defendant was convicted of occasioning actual bodily harm. The victim was a female ex-colleague. Between October 1993 and June 1995 he followed her home from work, made numerous silent telephone calls, sent over 800 letters, repeatedly drove past her home, visited her against her expressed wishes, and on three occasions wrote offensive words on her front door. In June 1995 the victim received two further letters which she interpreted as clear threats. She believed that he had "flipped" and that he might do something to her at any time. In July she was diagnosed as suffering from clinical depression and anxiety. It was the doctor's view that the defendant's actions had caused this harm.

The Court of Appeal held that the issue before the Court was whether it was enough if the Crown have proved a fear of violence at some time not excluding the immediate future. In the Court's view it was. It was an important factor that the defendant lived near the victim and she thought that something could happen at any time. The judge was entitled to leave to the jury the question whether or not she had a fear of immediate violence, and the jury were entitled to find that she did. The Court rejected the defence submission that a person cannot have a fear of immediate violence unless they can see the potential perpetrator. It rejected a further submission that an assault could not be committed by words alone without a physical action. The indictment made it clear that the assault relied on was that constituted by the last letter.

3. MALICIOUSLY WOUNDING OR MALICIOUSLY INFLICTING GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM

R v Martin (1881) 8 QBD 54.

The defendant blocked the exit doors of a theatre, put out the lights in a passageway, and shouted 'Fire!' as the theatre-goers were leaving the performance. In the ensuing panic, many were severely injured by being crushed against the locked doors. The defendant was convicted under s20 and appealed. His conviction was confirmed and it is implicit in the decision that the indirect nature of the way in which the defendant's acts had caused the harm presented no bar to liability.

R v Wilson [1984] AC 242.

The defendant motorist had been involved in an argument with a pedestrian, which culminated in the defendant punching the pedestrian in the face. Lord Roskill stated:

"In our opinion, 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, although it is not itself a direct application of force to the body of the victim, does directly result in force being applied violently to the body of the victim, so that he suffers grievous bodily harm."

R v Mowatt [1968] 1 QB 421.

The defendant was convicted under s20 following an attack he had carried out on a police officer, during which he had rained blows on the officer's face and pushed him roughly to the ground. Regarding the term 'maliciously' Lord Diplock stated:

"In the offence under section 20... the word "maliciously" does import upon the part of the person who unlawfully inflicts the wound or other grievous bodily harm an awareness that his act may have the consequence of causing some physical harm to some other person... It is quite unnecessary that the accused should have foreseen that his unlawful act might cause physical harm of the gravity described in the section, ie a wound or serious physical injury. It is enough that he should have foreseen that some physical harm to some person, albeit of a minor character, might result."

DPP v Parmenter [1991].

The defendant had caused injury to his young baby by tossing him about in a way which would have been acceptable with an older child, but not with one so young. He did not realise that he might cause harm by this action. The House of Lords held that he could not be liable under s20 as he had not foreseen the risk of any harm. It was not necessary under s20 that he foresee the grievous bodily harm which must be caused, but the defendant must foresee that he might cause some harm. An alternative verdict under s47 was substituted.

R v Sullivan [1981] Crim LR 46.

The defendant, who had swerved his car towards a group of pedestrians intending to scare them was acquitted of a charge under s20, when he lost control of the vehicle and subsequently collided with the pedestrians causing injury. As he had only foreseen the risk of 'psychic harm' his liability was reduced to s47.

R v Belfon [1976] 1 WLR 741.

The defendant had slashed the victim with a razor causing severe wounds to his face and chest. The Court of Appeal held that in order to establish the offence under s18 it was essential to prove the specific intent. References to the defendant foreseeing that such harm was likely to result or that he had been reckless as to whether such harm would result, would be insufficient.