Haystead v DPP [2000] 3 All ER 690

Whether reckless battery requires the direct physical application of force on the victim.


A man punched a woman twice in the face while she was holding her child in her arms. As a direct result of the two punches, the child fell from the women’s arms and hit his head on the floor. The man was convicted of an offence of assault by beating of the child. The man was convicted of battery and assault of the child. 


S 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 prohibits common assault and battery. The question of law arose as to whether the man could be found to be guilty of battery and assault of the child by beating for the purposes of s 39 if there was no physical application of force directly from the man to the physical body of the victim.


A direct application of force could be applied through a medium that is controlled through the actions of a person and does not require a direct infliction of physical contact with the victim’s body. Although most batteries are commonly directly inflicted upon a victim’s body, it is not an essential requirement that the violence and harm ought to be so directly inflicted to a victim’s body for the purposes of a charge of battery and assault under s 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. The Court stipulated that the only difference between the man’s actions causing the baby to fall from his mother’s hands and his punching of the baby directly is that, in the present case, the charge is of reckless and not intentional battery.