It MPC, the court said that an

It has been suggested that assault and battery are
distinct crimes with distinct features. However, it can sometimes be confusing
to distinguish between them, reason being, that the word assault is commonly
used to include a battery and, at other instances, using unlawful force against
a person not only constitutes as a battery but commonly amounts to an assault
and a battery. To eliminate this misconception surrounding these two non-fatal
offences, the term ‘common assault’ must be assessed and the similarities and
differences of an assault and battery must be noted. Also the relative laws
under the Statutes for these offences must be distinguished.

The term Common Assault is a generic term and it is
generally statutory governed by the Offenses against the Person Act 1861 and
are recognized as being statutory offences. The term common assault has been
held to mean either an assault or a battery. This can be seen in the case of R v Lynsey. However, it has now been
settled by s39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, that the two common law acts
of assault and battery are recognized as being two separate offenses. This can
be seen in the case of DPP v Little. They
are classed as summary offences under s39 and thus the maximum penalty is six
months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

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Theoretically, assault and battery mean different
things. In Fagan v MPC, the court
said that an assault is any act which intentionally or possibly recklessly
causes another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful personal violence. Therefore
the actus reus of assault is any act which causes the victim to apprehend an
immediate infliction of violence. An example of this can be raising a fist or
pointing a gun at someone. The term apprehension of violence means that there
is no need for any physical contact between the defendant and the victim. The
emphasis is placed on what the victim expected was about to happen. This can be
seen in the case of R v Logdon. Immediacy
is also an important element for assault. The requirement of immediacy in the
crime of assault is generally understood to mean that the victim must perceive
the threat as one which can be carried out “there and then” by the
defendant. An example of this can be seen in the case of Smith v Superintendent of Working Police Station. The courts have
on occasion however, given a somewhat liberal interpretation to the concept of
immediacy in assault. However, there is the issue whether words can constitute
as an assault. In the case of R v Meade and Belt it was stated that “no
words or singing are equivalent to an assault”, is often cited as
authority for the proposition that words alone, unaccompanied by physical
gestures, cannot amount to an assault. However, the House of Lords recently
stated that an assault can be committed by words alone. This can be seen in the
case of R v Ireland. Also this can be
seen in the case of R v Constanza. However,
words will not constitute an assault if they are phrased in such a way that
negates any threat that the defendant is making. This can be seen in the case
of Tuberville v Savage. For the mens
rea, The defendant must intentionally or recklessly cause his victim to
apprehend the infliction of immediate force: R v Venna. However, In R v Spratt, it was held by the
Court of Appeal that the subjective Cunningham test of recklessness
applies here, in that, the defendant had to be aware of the risk of causing
another person to apprehend harm.

Battery (Physical Assault), on the other hand, is
the direct application of unlawful force as seen in R v Ireland and R v Burstow. Although it can be inflicted
indirectly: DPP v K. An example of
this can be setting a trap for the victim. It must be noted the slightest of
touch will result in the offence of a battery. It requires no hurt to be
suffered by the victim beyond the interference with autonomy occasioned by any
contact that is unconsented. However, unconsented touches arising from the
ordinary rough and tumble of everyday life would not be considered as a
battery. This would include contacts such as taps on the shoulder to gain
someone’s attention etc. this can be seen in the case of Collins v Wilcock. For the mens rea element, like assault, it is
satisfied by proof that the defendant intentionally or recklessly applied force
to the person of another. This can be seen in the case of R v Venna. Recklessness in this instance holds its subjective Cunningham meaning.

In conclusion, it is
felt that the cause of the confusion between these two offenses is due to the
generic term common assault. Because of this, both assault and battery are
considered assaults. The only distinguishing feature between them is that
battery requires physical contact as opposed to assault. It is of the view that
they should be placed onto statutory footing because this may help in
clarifying the confusion between the two.  

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