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What are the common assault sentencing guidelines?

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Whilst common assault is the least serious form of assault, it is not an offence that will always be treated lightly. Indeed, in some cases, a conviction for common assault can lead to terms of imprisonment.

If you are facing an accusation of common assault, it is important to understand what the offence involves and what the relevant sentencing guidelines are.

While we hope this information is useful, please note, it should not be taken as legal advice. If you need legal support with allegations of common assault, then please get in touch and our team can advise you.

What is common assault?

Common assault is an offence under section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. It occurs when a person makes another person fear that they are going to be attacked imminently. Physical violence does not have to take place, which means that common assault could merely be spitting, raising a fist or general threatening behaviour. 

What is the sentence for common assault?

The sentence for common assault can vary significantly depending on various factors. The maximum sentence for common assault is six months’ custody, but it is important to keep in mind that, if common assault is carried out against an emergency worker, or is racially or religiously aggravated, the sentences are more serious. In both of these cases, the maximum sentence is two years’ custody.

How is sentencing determined for common assault?

The sentence for cases of common assault is determined by reference to the perceived harm caused and the culpability of the alleged offender.

Harm assesses the damage that has been caused to the victim of the alleged assault, considering the circumstances and extent of the injuries.

Culpability measures the offender’s level of involvement in the alleged assault and the extent to which they should be held accountable.

Additionally, various aggravating and mitigating factors relevant to the case will also be considered by the Court, which can increase or decrease the severity of the sentence for common assault.

What does the prosecution have to prove to establish common assault?

To prove common assault, the prosecution must adduce sufficient evidence to show that:

  • A caused B to apprehend
    • immediate
    • unlawful
    • personal violence

How these points are proven will depend on the evidence available in each case. For instance, the prosecution may refer to CCTV evidence or witness testimony.

What defence is there against a charge of common assault?

There are likely to be various defence strategies that can be used if you are accused of common assault. Depending on the context surrounding the incident in question, your defence could involve arguing that the offence did not occur, that you had consent, or that there has been mistaken identity.

A defence could also be put forward to suggest that you were acting in self-defence. This can be a complicated area of law, so it is important to understand exactly how this is likely to work.

Information on when you can use self-defence as a defence in criminal law can be found here

What should you do if you are accused of common assault?

If you are accused of common assault, it is important to have a specialist criminal defence solicitor on your side. This could be crucial in impacting whether it is possible to have charges dropped, or having a sentence reduced if the conviction is unavoidable.

At J D Spicer Zeb, our criminal defence solicitors have over 45 years’ of experience in dealing with a wide range of criminal law matters, including common assault. Our wealth of expertise and knowledge is recognised through our accreditation in Criminal Litigation by the Law Society.

Our experience means that we know exactly what is required to build the strongest possible defence against allegations of common assault, including the types of evidence that will be relied on. We can identify any flaws in the case being presented against you and make sure that any evidence that supports your defence is highlighted.

We have established a strong track record of success and, from this, have been able to build strong relationships with a number of the country’s leading criminal defence barristers.

If you are facing a common assault charge, we are here to provide you with the support and representation you need.

Related matters

We also provide support and guidance on various matters that are related to common assault, including:

Related cases

Fees and funding

When you come to our team for support, we will always be clear and transparent when it comes to fees and the way your case will be funded.

If you need to attend court for your case, Legal Aid may become available in certain cases. This will be based on an assessment of your means and whether it justifies the grant of public funding.

For clients who do not qualify for Legal Aid, the alternative will be to fund the case on a private basis.

To find out more about the way we handle fees (both Legal Aid and private fees) for common assault charges in the UK, please use the links provided below:

Contact our criminal defence lawyers today

If you are due to attend the police station, require any urgent specialist advice, or immediate representation for common assault charges, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can contact our dedicated criminal defence lawyers in London, Birmingham, and Manchester by telephone on:

Or email: solicitors@jdspicer.co.uk

Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form, and we will get back to you quickly.

24/7 legal representation for common assault

Please get in touch for a free consultation with one of our expert criminal defence solicitors, as well as immediate representation and advice for common assault.

We are available to represent clients all over England and Wales at any time, so please contact our Emergency Number at 07836 577 556.

Bespoke Private Fee Service

If you believe your case is likely to have serious consequences for you now, or in the future and you have the means to pay for this service

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Do we offer free consultations? 

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How can we help?

Common questions

We always work with the most experienced and best leading UK barristers, KCs (Kings Counsel). We cover all criminal cases 24/7 at the police station and court. Offices in London, Birmingham, and Manchester cover cases across England and Wales. We can offer Legal Aid and affordable Private fee agreements. We can see you the same day, including virtually. Our Senior Partners supervise all of our cases.

How quickly do you respond?

We respond quickly even during out of hours. We do not get our work by paying for online adverts but based on the fact that few criminal law firms can match our 45 years of experience. Most of our cases are still from word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients. We are called daily by dissatisfied clients from firms with less experience than us. We respond very quickly to new enquiries. We know what clients seek and so we update clients rapidly.

Can you get cases dropped?

Yes, read about the recent cases we've helped our clients with here.

We always keep you updated and give straightforward advice. We will get cases dropped early where the case is weak or should not be prosecuted. We will be upfront with you about where you can benefit from a good result with an early guilty plea, such as a discount on your sentence. As we work on cases across all levels with clients from all walks of life, we are excellent at giving clear, spot-on advice. As an established firm, we can allocate a whole team to your case often at short notice to secure evidence to minimise the damage to you. 

Have you won any awards?


"JD Spicer Zeb demonstrated a clear commitment to client service through their work with vulnerable and diverse individuals in what can be severely traumatic circumstances".

Do you offer free consultations?

Where it is possible, we aim to provide an initial consultation to you. If we can speak to you, we can if required inform you about  –

  • Whether we can take the case on and our relevant experience.
  • Public and private funding benefits.
  • Assistance in applying for legal aid where we are likely to accept instructions.
  • An outline of options in police interview only. We will not advise you on which option to adopt.
  • Providing our free written guide explaining the police station process.
  • The gravity of routine and day-to-day offences you face.
  • Consequences of not attending the court or police station.
  • Consequences of interfering with any witnesses.
  • Retaining any evidence in support of your case.
  • If possible an outline of the elements of the offence that the police or CPS must prove.
  • This consultation will normally be by telephone or email and will only be for as long as we deem necessary to establish if we can act for you. If we cannot usefully give you any advice in this manner then we will not continue with the consultation. We will not discuss the case in depth for you to be able to decide on your plea or any significant aspect of the case, as this cannot be undertaken informally.
  • Referring you, if possible, to other firms for matters out of our specialism or if we cannot help.

Consultations do not apply to the following cases –

  • If we do not intend to take the case on.
  • Road Traffic cases, drink driving, drug driving, driving bans, speeding, no insurance, mobile phone use, points etc.
  • In all cases where we do not have the capacity to take your case or the availability of suitably qualified staff to provide an initial free consultation. This is applicable in all cases but especially where a more senior lawyer is required because of your personal needs or the complexity of the case.
  • Harassment/stalking/ coercive behaviour/malicious communications or road traffic cases and most sensitive cases. These cases are often too complicated to assess in short consultations.
  • The locations concerned may be too distant to represent you adequately or it may not be cost-effective for you or us.
  • The case is too complicated to assess or raises various charges or facts, complexity, or history to be considered informally or in a short consultation.
  • In most Legal aid transfers where legal aid is granted to another firm except in very grave cases, we may assess the case and merits for a transfer.
  • If your relationship has broken down with your existing solicitor or several solicitors.
  • If you have been released under investigation and have already had a police station attendance. 
  • If you hold legal aid with another firm and seek a second opinion.
  • If you are calling on behalf of the client as a friend or family member unless you have full authority and full facts.
  • To businesses.
  • Advising whether you were given good advice by your other solicitor.
  • Whether to decide to plead guilty or not guilty.
  • Whether you have an arguable defence in law or factually complicated defences.
  • Any advice you have had after your first court appearance.
  • Any advice on appeal on conviction or sentence.
  • If we feel we are unable to communicate with you.
  • If we are likely to be conflicted or breach our professional rules.