Violence can be a complex area of law. The offences range from putting someone in fear of unlawful violence (common assault) to touching (assault by beating) to unlawful violence that causes serious physical harm or death.
A definition of unlawful force is force that was not consented to. In the less serious offences, provided there was an intentional or reckless application of unlawful force, however slight that force may be, the offence will have been committed. In the more serious offences, such as Grievous Bodily Harm, a person must have intended to cause physical harm or foreseen that some physical harm would have occurred, even if it was not the grievous bodily harm that actually occurred (s20 Offences Against the Person Act 1861) or, the person intended to cause grievous bodily harm and that is what occurred (s18 Offences Against the Person Act 1861). In order to convict, the prosecution must prove that all the elements of the charged offence were present.
Some defences to accusations of unlawful violence are:
- Self defence
- Defence of another
- Defence of property
- Prevention of crime and lawful arrest.
Reasonable force must have been used if a person wants to rely on those defences. Also, dependent on circumstances, a person may argue the force applied was commensurate with accepted social norms.hen moving through a crowd. Alongside those defences is the defence that the accused was not involved in whatever took place. Either she was not at the scene, or if she was, she did not take part in what happened. A successful outcome for the defendant running that defence will usually require expert examination of the forensic evidence served by the prosecution. That may consist of CCTV, DNA traces, analysis of phone calls, messages and cell site analysis. Unfortunately, in cases where a group of people are present at the scene of unlawful violence, the courts' application of the concept of joint enterprise has made it frighteningly easy to be convicted by association of a serious offence.
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