Common assault sentencing guidelines

Common assault is a criminal offence in Britain and other countries in the British Commonwealth of Nations. Common assault occurs when person A makes person B believe or fear that A is about to do violence against B. The offence occurs when one party has good reason to think he is about to be attacked. Common assault is a relatively minor offence, but the assailant can receive jail time, called "custodial" time in the United Kingdom.

Common Assault Sentencing in General

Judges have a great degree of discretion in sentencing. Different legal bodies, not all of them part of the government, provide advice on how best to go about sentencing offenders. If you're a defendant in a common assault case, it's especially important to try to keep the judge's favour. A bad attitude can change a judge's opinion of your entire case. In some cases, your sentence can go from a fine to jail time. The maximum sentence is six months in jail.

Aggravating Factors

Judges tend to give harsher sentences if you use a weapon or start kicking. They take into account how many times you hit the person and how hard. They inquire about the injuries the person who was attacked may have suffered. Judges ask whether the violence was unprovoked, as well as whether one of the parties might have defended himself excessively. If the victim was particularly vulnerable or if the victim was a person conducting a public service (such as a postman or police officer), judges tend to give harsher sentences. Also, if the place where the violence took place was volatile, such as a pub, expect a harsher sentence.


Because no general guidelines exist, some authorities have produced statistical studies of the sentences judges have actually given in common assault cases. In 1993, 42 per cent of men received jail time, whereas in the same year only 15 per cent of women received jail time; in 2003 the numbers were similar: 39 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women received jail time.

Case Law

Two of the more important cases provide details about what courts in actual practice look at. A 1996 case held firmly that the court should consider any and all consequences to the victim of the assault, especially physical injury. In a 2003 case, the court gave a police officer three months in jail for kicking a man as the man was falling to, or already on, the ground.

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