Clarkson Hirst Solicitors

If you are charged with common assault then whilst you are unlikely to face a prison sentence you would still be convicted of a crime of violence which would damage your reputation and career prospects. It would be wise therefore to call a solicitor for help at the police station If you are charged with common assault.

This is a summary only offence which means that it will only be dealt with in the Magistrates Court unless linked to a more serious offence.

Our solicitors regularly represent Defendants charged with common assault at Lancaster Magistrates, Barrow Magistrates Court and Kendal Magistrates Court.

We offer representation at Carlisle Magistrates Court and Workington Magistrates Court. We represent clients at police stations in Barrow, Kendal, Workington, Whitehaven and Carlisle.

If convicted, the offence is set out into three categories for the purpose of sentencing. This ranges from category 3, where there is no injury, to category 1 which is the more serious offence, for example where a weapon is used including a head butt or a kick. For a category 3 offence this may be dealt with by way of a financial penalty. The sentences range through to a community penalty and up to six months imprisonment for a category 1 offence.

Actual Bodily harm

The legal definition for harm in respect of this offence is that the injury caused has to be more than merely transient. Examples of actual bodily harm are where a victim receives severe bruising including a black eye, or the victim has a tooth knocked out. The maximum sentence is five years. The sentence is worked out on categories depending on the level of injury whether weapons were used and the Defendant’s age and previous convictions. This is in either way an offence which can be dealt with in the Magistrates Court but is usually dealt with in the Crown Court.

Grievous bodily harm

This is the most serious offence. There are two offences Section 18 where the Crown must prove you have committed really serious harm or wounded another person for example by cutting them with a knife and that this was intended.

If the Defendant’s intention was to cause some pain or harm but not “really serious harm” then the appropriate charge would be Section 20 assault.

If you are convicted of Section 20 assault the maximum sentence is 5 years. If you are convicted of Section 18 assault then a maximum sentence of life imprisonment is possible.

The way we defend assault cases

By careful case planning we identify the issues in the case and assess whether you have a defence. Examples of this are as follows;

  • Is there CCTV evidence that shows you were not the perpetrator of the crime and that the police have charged the wrong person?
  • Did you act in self-defence and is that defence available to you?
  • Were the injuries actually caused by the assault? Can we obtain medical or forensic evidence to prove otherwise?

Case examples we have dealt with

Grievous bodily harm with intent (s18)

R V R 2013 – Barrow crown court

The Defendant was involved in a verbal altercation in a local public house. The Defendant left with a bottle in his hand from which he was drinking. The Defendant was chased before one of the males caught up with the Defendant. The Defendant believed that he was going to be attacked by the group and turned around and hit the first male in the face with the bottle in his hand.

After a 5 day trial, the jury reached a unanimous verdict that the Defendant had acted in self-defence and his actions were proportionate.

GBH – Grievous bodily harm with section 20 (reckless rather than intentional)

R V O 2014 – Preston crown court

The Complainant received serious injuries to his face.

The Defendant accepted that he had been involved in fighting with the complainant as he believed that he was going to be beaten up and left in a bad way.

The case went to trial and the jury came back with a verdict of not guilty as the Defendant had acted in self-defence.


R V B 2015 – Barrow crown court

The Defendant was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm. This relates to an altercation in a public house where it is alleged the Defendant punched the complainant, knocking one of his front teeth out.

The case proceeded to trial and it became apparently clear that the defence case was much stronger and the Crown offered no evidence on the first day of trial.

Successful appeals

Court of Appeal

R V C 2014 – Royal court of justice – London

The Defendant pleaded guilty to an affray along with two other male Co-Defendants. The male Defendants were given immediate custody of 12 months. The Defendant had spent some time on remand and was given a suspended sentence with a curfew requirement for a period of 12 months daily for 12 hours each day. In essence, this meant that the Co-Defendants would be released prior to her curfew finishing which meant that her liberty was restricted longer than the prison sentence given for the two Co-Defendants.

This case went to the Court of Appeal in London and was successful. The curfew was reduced from 12 months to 6 months.

Appeal to Crown Court on sentence

R V R 2008 – Preston crown court

The Defendant was a 16 year old youth who had pleaded guilty to wounding contrary to section 20 of the Offences against the Person Act. This female had never been in trouble with the police before. She was involved in an altercation with another female causing injury requiring hospital treatment.

When a youth appears in Court for the first time and pleads guilty, the options are very limited to the Magistrates to either give a custodial sentence or a referral order. This youth had just started college and had a number of character references showing her to be a model pupil and that this was out of character. The Magistrates decided that a referral order was not sufficient punishment and gave her a detention and training order (custody) for a period of four months.

We immediately appealed to the Crown Court and the Defendant was released from custody within less than a week and was given a referral order instead.