The actus reus (the physical element) for assault can be divided into four components. They are as follows:-
The victim must apprehend violence.
It must be immediate i.e. the victim is of the belief that the defendant is going to act or react violently at the time the words were spoken or the threatening gestures were made and not something that is going to occur a day or a week later or something that is going to happen somewhere down the track see Tuberville v Savage (1669).
It must be unlawful.
The victim must apprehend personal violence or violence towards himself or herself.
- The victim must apprehend violence:-
In Tuberville v Savage (1669) the defendant placed his hands on the hilt of his sword and said to the victim “if it were not for the fact that it is assize-time (the assize judge was in town) I would not take such language from you”. It was held that the defendant’s acts and actions did not constitute an assault.
In R v Lamb (1967) two boys got their hands on a revolver. The boys believed that the chamber was empty and started fiddling around with it when in fact there were two bullets in the chamber.
One boy pointed the gun at the other and it went off killing the other boy.
It was held that no assault had taken place. Pointing a gun at someone could constitute an assault i.e. a threat that puts someone in fear of imminent harm but in the given situation neither of the boys were even remotely afraid and the victim did not apprehend fear and therefore there could be no assault.
It is worth comparing the decision in R v Lamb (1967) with the decision in Logdon v DPP (1976).
In Logdon v DPP (1976) the defendant pointed a fake gun at the victim (a replica) who was instantly terrified and would not calm down until she was told that the gun was a fake. It was held that the actions of the defendant constituted an assault because it caused the victim to immediately apprehend violence.
In Smith v Superintendent of Woking Police Station (1983) the defendant frightened the victim by staring through the window of her ground floor flat. It was decided that despite the fact that the defendant was outside the building there was enough evidence to suggest that the victim was terrified and perceived immediate violence. The nature and the type of violence need not be specified and it sufficed that the victim feared immediate violence.
Copyright © 2019 by Dyarne Jessica Ward