Law Criminal Courts

Topics: Criminal law, Grievous bodily harm, Battery Pages: 7 (2526 words) Published: May 16, 2013
Jonas has been attacked by someone and has been harmed. Explain what offences might have been committed upon him.

Jonas was not murdered therefore his attacker has committed a non fatal offence which is dealt with in either the magistrates court or the crown court depending on the severity of the crime. Jonas's attacker could be charged with a number of non fatal offences ranging from the lowest non fatal offences which are common assault and battery under the Criminal Justice Act 1988, to the higher offences assault causing actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm under the Offence Against the Person Act (1861). In order for the attacker to be charged within the criminal courts, the prosecution must prove the crime is 'beyond reasonable doubt' (Charman, 2010: 211). The jury must be certain the accused is responsible for the crime. If the attacker is guilty he will be sentenced by the judge, in order for the judge to rule a guilty verdict the crime must consist of two elements; the mens rea and the actus reus. The attacker must be found guilty of both in order to be sentenced. Jonas's attacker could be charged with the following non fatal offences.

The attacker could be charged with common assault under the s39 of the Criminal Justice Act (1988), being a summary crime he would be trailed in the magistrates court. If found guilty he would receive a maximum of six months imprisonment and/or fine. For the attacker to be found guilty of the actus reus of assault 'the defendant must intentionally or subjectively cause another person to fear immediate unlawful personal violence' (Martin 2010:167). There are two elements to the actus reus of assault, the acts, words or both. Jonas does not have to be psychically harmed by the attacker in order for his attacker to be found guilty, the victim must 'fear immediate violence'(Currer, 2008:180). An example of where there has been no physical harm to the victim, however the act alone was enough to cause immediate fear can been seen in Smith v Chief Superintendent of Working Police Station(1983). The defendant frightened the victim by looking through her bedroom window late at night. The victim a policewoman was terrified, the Court of Appeal said: '[S]he did not know what the defendant was going to do next.....her state of mind was not only terror, which they did find, but terror of some immediate violence' (Elliot, C & Quinn, F: 2005:142). The defendant was found guilty. This shows the victim can feel real immediate fear with just actions alone, no touching is necessary. The second element is words alone can constitute an assault. The attacker did not have to physically act upon Jonas, words alone or even silence can be assault. An example of where they words alone caused the victim to fear immediate force is in R v Ireland(1997). The defendant made a series of silent telephone calls over three months to three different women. He was convicted under s.47 Offences Against the Person Act (1861). He appealed contending that silence cannot amount to an assault and that psychiatric injury is not bodily harm. Lord Steyn states “he caused the victim to suffer psychiatric illness”(Molan:2005:224). The fear was immediate therefore if Jonas attacker used words to cause immediate fear he may be found guilty of assault.

In order for the attacker to be found guilty of assault he must also be guilty of the mens rea. It is the intention to cause someone to fear that they would receive unwanted force or subjective recklessness know as Cunningham’s recklessness(1957). Recklessness itself can been seen in R v Cunningham(1957). The defendant tore a gas meter from wall to attempt to steal money from it, gas seeped through the wall, where the victim was partially asphyxiated. He was charged under s 23 of the Offences Against the Person Act (1861) which provides 'Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously administer to or cause to be administered to or taken by any...

References: to the defendant foreseeing that such harm was likely to result or that he had been reckless as to whether such harm would result, would be uinsuffiecent” (Currer:2008:185). Section 18 has the maximum sentencing of life imprisonment, therefore it is extremely important that Jonas attacker most certainly intended to cause Jonas grievous bodily harm.
It has been shown, therefore that Jonas attacker, depending on the extent of his crime could face imprisonment from six months up to life, under the Offence Against the Persons Act (1861).The Act is 152 years old, the non Fatal offences contained within it use archaic language and words of which modern understanding of them has changed since it was passed, such as assault and battery. The structure of the offences can also be criticised. There is no statutory definition of assault or battery and there are no clear boundaries between the offences which Jonas attacker could have committed. Similarly there is no clear boundary between ABH and GBH it is for the jury to decide what amounts to really serious harm and different juries will differ in their opinions. Non-fatal offences is an area of the law that has attracted much criticism and it is unanimously accepted that it is in need of reform. This could avoid absurd decisions within the courtroom, endless appeals and unjustified sentencing. In order for both Jonas and his attacker to have a fair trail, changes are necessary.
Bibliography
Currer J, et all, AQA Law, London, Nelson Thornes Ltd, 2008
Elliot, C & Quinn, F, English Legal system, London, Pearson education limited, 2005
Martin, J, AQA Law, Abington, Hodder Education, 2010
Molan, M Cases & Materials on Criminal Law, 3rd Ed, Cavendish Publishing, 2005
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