Assault charges in the UK carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. This can be extended to seven years if it can be proved the assault was motivated by religious or racial hatred. The charge of assault itself is broken down into sub-categories under UK law, that of actual bodily harm and common assault. Common assault is the lesser of the two offences, as offenders can be arrested for causing minor injuries such as scratching or bruising or even for displaying threatening behaviour towards a victim without physically maiming them.
Anyone arrested for assault will typically be taken to their local police station accompanied by an officer. Once in custody, the arrested party has three rights under UK law: the right to free legal advice from a duty solicitor, the right to inform someone they have been arrested and the right to consult the legal codes of practice. If you cannot get hold of the person you choose, you can try contacting two other people. The officer in charge of the case can use discretion and allow you to try more than three people until you can inform someone of your arrest.
Any person taken into custody should be given a "Notice of Rights and Entitlements" in their native language. This document sets out the rights of arrested parties and what they can expect to happen during their stay in custody. The police are not permitted to hold you for more than twenty-four hours following arrest, without officially charging you with assault. However, this time frame can be expanded to up to ninety-six hours, if approved by a magistrate.
Types of bail
If there is a lack of evidence against you, you may be released on police bail and asked to return to the police station for further questioning, if required. If the police believe you are a threat to the general community or are likely to intimidate witnesses involved in the assault charge, they may release you on conditional bail. This typically involves restrictions on distances you can travel within your town, places you can visit or an evening curfew. If the assault was especially vicious, you may be refused bail of any kind and held in custody until your trial takes place. Any time served up until the trial will be deducted from the time you serve if given a custodial sentence.
Vulnerable parties and complaints
Anyone arrested on assault charges under seventeen years old or suffering from a mental disorder must accompanied by an adult, such as a parent, legal guardian or healthcare professional, during police questioning. Anyone who feels they have been wrongfully arrested or denied their legal rights in police custody can file a complaint with their local police station or contact the Independent Police Complaints Commission (see Resources).