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R v Venna [1975] 3 WLR 737 Court of Appeal

The defendant was causing a disturbance with three others in the early hours of the morning by singing shouting and bashing dust bin lids. The police were called. An officer called Leach went to investigate. He tried to reason with them and told them to go home quietly. The four continued in defiance. One of them sat down and the officer went over to him and said you're all under arrest and pulled him up. The other three tried to get the other from the grasp of the policeman. The officer called for assistance and all three were taken forcibly to the police station. The defendant had fought so violently that it took four officers to get him into the police vehicle. During this time he was kicking indiscriminately. The defended contended that he had not heard that he had been arrested and was hit on the chin and knocked to the ground and he kicked out in order to get to his feet. He stated he did not know or suspect that an officer was close by. The trial judge directed the jury:

To do an act deliberately hardly needs explanation. If you see somebody in front of you and you deliberately kick him on the knee, that is a deliberate act and, no two ways about it, that is an assault but it can equally well be an assault if you are lashing out, knowing that there are people in the neighbourhood or that there are likely to be people in the neighbourhood and, in this case, it is suggested that he had two people by his arms and he knew that he was being restrained so as to lead to arrest. If he lashes out with his feet, knowing that there are officers about him and knowing that by lashing out he will probably or is likely to kick somebody or hurt his hand by banging his heel down on it, then he is equally guilty of the offence. Venna can therefore be guilty of the offence in count three in the indictment if he deliberately brought his foot down on Police Constable Spencer's hand or if he lashed out simply reckless as to who was there, not caring an iota as to whether he kicked somebody or brought his heel down on his hands."

The defendant appealed contending that this was a misdirection in that it states that the mental element of recklessness is enough, when coupled with the actus reus of physical contact, to constitute the battery involved in assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Recklessness, it is argued, is not enough; there must be intention to do the physical act the subject matter of the charge. Counsel relied on the case of R v Lamb [1967] 2 Q.B. 981 and argued that an assault is not established by proof of a deliberate act which gives rise to consequences which are not intended.


Conviction upheld. There was no misdirection.
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