In order to obtain a conviction under s. 20, the prosecution needs to satisfy the four components that make up the actus rues (physical element). They are as follows:-
- The act must be unlawful
- Inflicting/Causing grievous bodily harm (GBH)
- On another person.
The unlawful act:-
In Fagan v MPC (1969) the defendant was in his car when he was approached by a police officer who told him to move his vehicle. The defendant did so and reversed his car onto the foot of the police officer. The police officer somewhat forcefully told the defendant to move the car off his foot and the defendant swore at the police officer, switched off the engine and refused to do so. The defendant was tried and convicted for assault and appealed the decision. The appeal was dismissed.
With reference to children any punishment that is imposed must only be to the extent that it is reasonable and anything beyond that may lead to criminal charges.
In R v Hopley (1860) the defendant was a schoolmaster who was charged with causing the death of one his pupils which was brought about or precipitated by excessive punishment.
It was held that a parent or a guardian may punish a child provided that it doesn’t go too far and it is done with the intention of correcting the child and not for the gratification of passion or rage
S. 58 of the Childrens Act 2004 elaborates further on the subject-
(1) In relation to any offence specified in subsection (2), battery of a child cannot be justified on the ground that it constituted reasonable punishment.
(2) The offences referred to in subsection (1) are—
(a) An offence under section 18 or 20 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 (wounding and causing grievous bodily harm);
(b) An offence under section 47 of that Act (assault occasioning actual bodily harm);
(c) An offence under section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (cruelty to persons under 16).
(3) Battery of a child causing actual bodily harm to the child cannot be justified in any civil proceedings on the ground that it constituted reasonable punishment.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (3) “actual bodily harm” has the same meaning as it has for the purposes of section 47 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.
(5) In section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, omit subsection (7).
Section 1 (1) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 reads as follows:-
If any person who has attained the age of sixteen years and has responsibility for any child or young person under that age, willfully assaults, ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes him, or causes or procures him to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health (including injury to or loss of sight, or hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement), that person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be liable—
(a) On conviction on indictment, to a fine . . . or alternatively . . . or in addition thereto, to imprisonment for any term not exceeding ten years;
(b) On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £400 pounds, or alternatively . . . or in addition thereto, to imprisonment for any term not exceeding six months.
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