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The Law of Battery
 
 
 
 
Battery is a summary offence. Assault and battery have no statutory definition. The definition and all elements of the offence of battery are set out in case law. The punishment for battery(maximum 6 months imprisonment) is set out in statute under s.39 Criminal Justice Act 1988.
 
 
 
Definition of battery
 
R v Ireland [1997] 3 WLR 534 Case summary
 
Lord Steyn defined battery as:
 
 
"unlawful application of force by the defendant upon the victim"
 
 

 
 
 
Actus reus of battery
 
  • Application
  • Unlawful
  • Physical force
 
 
 
Application
 
 
 
 
The application of force need not be direct.
 
 
DPP v K (a minor)[1990] 1 WLR 1067 Case summary
 
 
Fagan v MPC [1969] 1Q.B. 439   Case summary
 
 
 
 
 
Unlawful
 
 
If the defendant has a lawful excuse to use force the actions will not amount to a battery. This includes:
 

 

 

 
 
 
On the issue of consent specifically related to battery, see Goff LJ's comments in the following case:
 
 
Collins v Wilcock [1984] 3 All ER 374 Case summary

 

See also:
 
 
Donnelly v Jackman [1970] 1 All E.R. 987  Case summary
 
 
 
Physical force 
 
 
Physical force is perhaps a misleading phrase in that it suggests a high level of force however, any touching will suffice:
 
 
 
 
Faulkner v Talbot [1981] 3 All ER 468

Lord Lane CJ defined unlawful physical force as
 
"any intentional [or reckless] touching of another person without the consent of that person and without lawful excuse. It need not necessarily be hostile, rude, or aggressive.”
 
 
 
Mens rea of battery
 
  • Intention to apply unlawful physical force or,

 

  • Being reckless as to whether such force is applied (Subjective reckless applies R v Parmenter [1991] 94 Cr App R 193 Case summary)
 
The law of battery