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R v Burstow [1997] UKHL 34 House of Lords (Considered at same time as R V Ireland)

The defendant had a brief relationship with a woman She ended the relationship and he could not accept her decision and embarked on a campaign of harassment against her over a period of 8 months. He made silent telephone calls, abusive telephone calls, he appeared at her house, took photos of her, distributed offensive cards to her neighbours and hate mail. As a result she suffered a severe depressive illness. Two questions for the court were:

1. whether psychiatric injury could amount to bodily harm under the OAPA 1861

2. whether a person could be liable under s.20 where there was no direct or indirect application of physical force on a person.


1. Psychiatric injury could amount to bodily harm. Dicta in Chan-Fook applied.

2. The word 'inflict' in s.20 simply means cause. There was thus no requirement that physical force is directly or indirectly applied.
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