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Common assault

Common assault

The offence

Common assault is the lowest level of assault. There is no statutory definition of the offence, and case law has determined that it is “any act by which a person intentionally or recklessly causes another person to apprehend immediate unlawful violence.”

It is not therefore necessary for a person to actually touch anybody for the offence to be proved. The victim simply has to “apprehend” (or fear) immediate unlawful violence.

The person causing the fear must have intended to do so, or have been reckless as to whether he/she would cause that fear.


The defence of self defence‘ is available to a charge of common assault. Self defence is where a person uses reasonable force to protect himself or another person. Contrary to popular belief, a person does not need to wait to be struck before he can use this defence. A person who uses reasonable force to defend himself or another from an attack he fears is imminent will be able to raise this as a valid defence.


The penalties for common assault range from a fine to six months imprisonment.

Case Study

We were instructed by J, who had been involved with an altercation with three waiters at a restaurant in London, whilst dining with friends. J had been charged with common assault against all three waiters. J and his friends contented that the assault had been committed by the waiters following a disagreement over the bill, and that J had simply defended himself from their attack. The police had failed to take statements from any independent witnesses. J was convicted of the offences in the Magistrates’ Court, but his convictions were overturned on appeal to the Crown Court. J was awarded his costs.

Contact our experienced criminal defence solicitors today

IBB Solicitors has one of the leading teams of defence solicitors in West London and the South East. If you are facing a serious criminal charge call us now in complete confidence on 0330 999 4999 for immediate emergency representation. Alternatively please email criminaldefence@ibblaw.co.uk.