Common Assault

Common Assault, s.39 Assault, Battery, Assault by Beating

Common assault is the least serious type of criminal assault in the English legal system. The offence is set out in section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Common assault is a summary only offence, which means that it can only be heard in the Magistrates Court or Youth Court. If you are accused of a common assault, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You have used force against another person,
  • The force was used either deliberately or recklessly, and
  • The force used was unlawful.

There are technically 2 separate offences of assault (when a person believes they are at risk of immediate unlawful violence) and battery (when someone actually has unlawful physical force used against them). It is rare for anyone to be charged with just the assault element though, and usually the cases dealt with by the police or Courts involve battery. Common assault can carry a prison sentence of up to 6 months custody. However, unless a case has strong aggravating features such as domestic violence, it is more often dealt with by a Community Order.

Racially Aggravated Common Assault, s.29 Assault

There is a separate offence of racially aggravated common assault, under section 29(1)(c) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. This offence has the same elements as the standard offence described above, but the Prosecution must also prove that the assault was motivated by hostility towards the victim’s racial or religious background. The racially aggravated form of this charge is an either way offence, meaning that it can be dealt with in either the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. The maximum penalty is increased to 2 years imprisonment. If you have been accused of common assault, it is important that you have expert advice from a specialist criminal defence lawyer. Contact us to see if we can help you find the best criminal solicitor or barrister for your case. See also: