Battery is a summary criminal offence under s.39 of the criminal justice act 1988.

A battery is committed when a person intentionally and recklessly applies unlawful force to another.  Battery is a summary offence the punishment for which is a fine and/or a prison sentence for up to six months.


The actus reus of battery can be defined as the application of unlawful force by one person on another. The slightest touch will be sufficient and it includes any unlawful physical contact, proof of pain or harm does not have to be shown.


The force can be direct, that is to say from one person to another for instance if one person punches another person or it can be indirect, as was the case in Haystead v Chief Constable of Derbyshire [2000]. In this case the defendant hit a woman who was holding her baby, the defendant punched the woman twice in the face and as a direct result of the punches the child fell from her arms hitting his head on the floor. The defendant was aware that she was holding the child and he would have foreseen the risk of the child being injured because of the force he used on the woman. He was convicted of the offence of battery against the child. He appealed on the grounds that 'to be guilty of battery it was necessary to establish that he had used force directly to the person of the child and that the evidence indicated that no force was applied directly to the child..."

His argument was rejected and the defendant's conviction was held. Battery did not require the direct infliction of violence and his action had been no different than if he had used a weapon which had caused the child to fall.

The force does not have to be directly applied to the victim it can be sufficient if their clothes are touched. A person who spits on another has committed a battery as has the person who has poked another in the chest or pushed him backwards even if there has been no harm done to the other person.


The mens rea of battery is intention or recklessness as to the application of unlawful force.

The term 'assault' or ‘common assault’ is often used to cover both assault and battery.

Specific Offences

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