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Common assault

Date Produced: 16 May 2011

Title: Offences against the person

Offence: Common Assault

Legislation: Criminal Justice Act 1988 section 39

Commencement Date:

Mode of Trial: Summary only, but can be added to indictment pursuant to section 40

Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty: 6 months imprisonment

Relevant Sentencing Guidelines

The Sentencing Council's 'Assault Definitive Guideline' applies to all offenders aged 18 and over sentenced on or after 13 June 2011, regardless of date of offence. Common assault offences are covered at pages 24 - 26 therein.

STEP 1 - Determine the offence category

  • Category 1: Greater harm (injury or fear of injury must normally be present) and higher culpability
  • Category 2: Greater harm (injury or fear of injury must normally be present) and lower culpability; or lesser harm and higher culpability
  • Category 3: Lesser harm and lower culpability

The court should determine culpability and harm caused, or intended, by reference only to the factors listed in full below at STEP 1 HARM AND CULPABILITY FACTORS (as demonstrated by the presence of one or more). These factors comprise the principal factual elements of the offence and should determine the category.

STEP 2 - Use starting point to reach a sentence within the category range. It applies irrespective of plea or previous convictions. A case of particular gravity could merit upward adjustment from the starting point before further adjustment for aggravating or mitigating features, listed in full below at STEP 2 SERIOUSNESS FACTORS.

Category 1 
Starting Point (Applicable to all offenders): High level community order 
Category Range (Applicable to all offenders): Low level community order - 26 weeks' custody

Category 2 
Starting Point (Applicable to all offenders):
Medium level community order 
Category Range (Applicable to all offenders): Band A fine - High level community order

Category 3 
Starting Point (Applicable to all offenders):
Band A fine 
Category Range (Applicable to all offenders): Discharge - Band C fine

STEP 3 - Any other factors which indicate a reduction, such as assistance to the prosecution

STEP 4 - Reduction for guilty pleas

STEP 5 - Totality principle

STEP 6 - (Dangerousness provisions do not apply to simple common assault)

STEP 7 - Compensation and ancillary orders

STEP 8 - Reasons

STEP 9 - Consider remand time

Relevant Sentencing Case Law

Decisions reported in CSP at B2-5.3



Factors indicating greater harm
  • Injury (which includes disease transmission and/or psychological harm) which is serious in the context of the offence (must normally be present)
  • Victim is particularly vulnerable because of personal circumstances
  • Sustained or repeated assault on the same victim
Factors indicating lesser harm
  • Injury which is less serious in the context of the offence


Factors indicating higher culpability

Statutory aggravating factors:

  • Offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility to the victim based on his or her sexual orientation (or presumed sexual orientation)
  • Offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility to the victim based on the victim's disability (or presumed disability)

Other aggravating factors:

  • A significant degree of premeditation
  • Threatened or actual use of weapon or weapon equivalent (for example, shod foot, headbutting, use of acid, use of animal)
  • Intention to commit more serious harm than actually resulted from the offence
  • Deliberately causes more harm than is necessary for commission of offence
  • Deliberate targeting of vulnerable victim
  • Leading role in group or gang
  • Offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility based on the victim's age, sex, gender identity (or presumed gender identity)

Factors indicating lower culpability

  • Subordinate role in group or gang
  • A greater degree of provocation than normally expected
  • Lack of premeditation
  • Mental disorder or learning disability, where linked to commission of the offence
  • Excessive self defence


The following lists are non-exhaustive

Factors increasing seriousness

Statutory aggravating factors:
  • Previous convictions, having regard to a) the nature of the offence to which the conviction relates and its relevance to the current offence; and b) the time that has elapsed since the conviction
  • Offence committed whilst on bail
Other aggravating factors include:
  • Location of the offence
  • Timing of the offence
  • Ongoing effect upon the victim
  • Offence committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public
  • Presence of others including relatives, especially children or partner of the victim
  • Gratuitous degradation of victim
  • In domestic violence cases, victim forced to leave their home
  • Failure to comply with current court orders
  • Offence committed whilst on licence
  • An attempt to conceal or dispose of evidence
  • Failure to respond to warnings or concerns expressed by others about the offender's behaviour
  • Commission of offence whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Abuse of power and/or position of trust
  • Exploiting contact arrangements with a child to commit an offence
  • Established evidence of community impact
  • Any steps taken to prevent the victim reporting an incident, or obtaining assistance and/or from assisting or supporting the prosecution
  • Offences taken into consideration (TICs)
Factors reducing seriousness or reflecting personal mitigation
  • No previous convictions or no relevant/recent convictions
  • Single blow
  • Remorse
  • Good character and/or exemplary conduct
  • Determination, and/or demonstration of steps taken to address addiction or offending behaviour
  • Serious medical conditions requiring urgent, intensive or long-term treatment
  • Isolated incident
  • Age and/or lack of maturity where it affects the responsibility of the offender
  • Lapse of time since the offence where this is not the fault of the offender
  • Mental disorder or learning disability, where not linked to the commission of the offence
  • Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives

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