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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
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
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