The law in the UK can be a complicated and sometimes confusing beast. Especially in criminal law. Criminal law tends to be contained in what we are known as Acts. Within these Acts there are sections and subsections. Some of these Acts can be extremely old and therefore contain language that either is no longer used or has changed meaning over the years. This can lead to some confusion when you are informed about the offences linked to yourself.

As a lawyer who spends the majority of his time working on matters in the police station and the Magistrates court, I will attempt to cover some of the most common examples of confusion I have come across.


Two particularly tricky offences can both be found in s.39 of the Criminal Justice Act 2009.

These two offences are known as summary only offences and therefore will be dealt with to completion at the Magistrates court.

The two offences contained in s.39 are known as Assault and Battery. They fall under the same section of the act.


This word in day-to-day life creates an image of violence and someone ending up hurt. In the context of law this is not the case.

The offence of assault is committed when a person causes another to apprehend immediate unlawful violence.

What this means in reality is the offence of assault can be committed when someone causes another to be fearful that violence that they do not consent to may happen. What this means in the simplest form is that no physical touching needs to have taken place for an assault to be committed; it is done by words or gestures.


Commonly written as assault by beating, this wording causes a great deal of issues. This wording suggests a need for serious violence. In modern everyday life, to beat someone suggest that a physical attack, causing injury, is needed.

However, in law the phrase ‘by beating’ means a lot less. The law states as follows,

Intentional or reckless to inflect unlawful physical force.

The example I like to use here is if someone gently poked someone else in the middle of their forehead, no injury need be caused, and this could amount to a battery. For the offence of battery, it merely needs to be any unwanted touching of another. It doesn’t even need to be aggressive or hostile in nature.


From the examples given it is clear that the law takes the meaning of a word or phrase to mean one thing whilst modern society takes it to mean something completely different. It is extremely important that you understand what the offence related to you means and, in addition to this, what that offence means in terms of the next steps in your case.

What we can do

As highlighted by the brief examples above, criminal law in the UK can be extremely complicated and unclear, therefore if you have any questions regarding an offence for which you are either charged, suspected or being investigated for, or any questions regarding outcomes, then please contact our criminal law experts at Farleys. Get in touch today on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.