What are the Different Types of Assault?


In everyday language, an assault is an attack on another person. However, it is important to realise that the law in England and wales recognises different types of assault and attached to them are different punishments. This ensures that justice is served and that every attack is looked at in order to award the appropriate sentence.

The Law in England and Wales

An assault is the intentional or reckless act of inflicting harm on another person. In other words, it is an offence against the person. Namely, there are four degrees or types of assault that you should be aware of. This includes inflicting grievous bodily harm (GBH), actual bodily harm (ABH), common assault or battery.

A lot of people assume that harm only means physical harm, such as inflicting bruising, scratches, broken bones or a black eye. However, in the eyes of the law, it is also possible to inflict psychological harm during an assault on another person.

Most of the law when it comes to assault is outlines in case law. However, the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 is also important for common assault and battery.

Grievous Bodily Harm

The most serious type of assault is GBH and this crime can end in a life sentence if you are found guilty. This happens when an accused intentionally or recklessly inflicts harm on another person. In other words, they have premeditated and planned the attack and this can be through stabbing, knocking someone out, using a weapon to strike or even transmitting an STI. Normally, this will result in a serious injury on the victim and this can leave them with permanent injuries.

Actual Bodily Harm

An assault that results in injuries but that are not deemed as serious, this is going to be assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Of course, it may be up to the court what is deemed a serious injury. This may be different for each case. You will find that the police or the prosecutors in a case will decide whether an injury from an assault is serious for GBH or be downgraded to ABH. For example, slamming someone against a wall or punching them can be ABH. Normally, this is an intentional or reckless act.

Common Assault or Battery

Common assault or battery is going to be when someone inflicts violence on another person. This offence is set out in section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Normally, something that you would think of as minor assault will be charged as common assault. Indeed, this can cover when the victim was scared of an act and it did not actually take place.

Therefore, common assault does not require physical violence. It can amount to attacks that include threatening language, as well as threatening actions that are not physical. The important part is the victim is scared that an attack is about to happen. For example, if you spit on somebody else, this can be charged as common assault.

Is there a difference between common assault and battery? Yes. Essentially, battery is when violence is used in a common assault. For example, this could be kicking or punching another person. In addition, the victim does not have to sustained any physical injuries in a battery. The harshest punishment for common assault is six months in prison. Of course, this should not be taken lightly.

The Defences to Assault

There are a number of defences that you can raise against the charge of assault. For example, this can include that the assault was an accident or that you had consent from the victim for your actions. In addition, you can proclaim that the assault happened during a lawful sport or claim that you acted due to self-defence. In order to claim self-defence, your actions must be reasonable and force must be proportionate. The court will look at every case carefully to ensure this standard. These defences are all full defences to the charge of assault. This means that if they are successfully claimed in court, you will not receive punishment in your case.

What to Do When You Are Charged with Assault

If you have been charged with assault, it is recommended to seek legal advice straight away before your trial. This should be from an experienced lawyer and you can search for a local expert near you. With their expertise, they will be able to advise you on the best things you can do next to avoid severe punishment. It is always best to have somebody on your side that knows all the details of the law. This is going to make sure the right outcome is reached in your case and you can decide whether you can claim a defence to your charge of assault.