A common assault under section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 is in fact two separate matters: an assault or a battery.
Any act which intentionally or recklessly causes another person to apprehend immediate unlawful personal violence constitutes an assault. An act by which a person intentionally or recklessly applies force to a complainant constitutes battery.
An assault does not have to involve an actual application of force: threatening words may be sufficient.
Typically, the sorts of defence to a charge of assault include:
- Disputed identification (“it wasn’t me”);
- Disputed facts (“the complainant is making it up”);
- Acting lawfully (“I was defending myself / another”);
- Lack of intent / not acting recklessly.