R v Notman [1994] Crim LR 518



The defendant entered a shop from which he had previously been barred and caused a disturbance. A police officer arrived at the scene, and the defendant charged at him; the officer moved out of the way and stuck out his leg to stop the defendant. This caused injury to the officer’s ankle. The defendant was charged with affray, but at trial entered a guilty plea to the public order offence under Public Order Act s4 as an alternative. This plea was deemed unacceptable and was withdrawn.

The recorder directed the jury that in order for the defendant to be found guilty of affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, his actions must have been a ‘substantial cause’ of the injury suffered by the officer. The defendant was acquitted of affray by the jury, however was then convicted of the public order offence at the direction of the recorder.


The issue was whether the recorder was correct to apply the ‘substantial cause’ test or should instead have instructed the jury based on the test in R v Roberts (1971) 56 Cr App 95. A further issue was whether the defendant could be convicted of the public order offenceon the basis of his withdrawn plea.


The Court of Appeal determined that the expression ‘substantial cause’ was a convenient phrase to communicate to the jury that the defendant’s actions must have been more than a de minimis contribution to the victim’s injury. The judge was not obliged to go into unnecessary detail by setting out the lengthy test in R v Robertsunless the facts required this.

However, the defendant was acquitted of the public order offence on the basis that the original plea was no longer valid once withdrawn.