There are main problemswith the law on non-fatal offences, most of which arise from the OffencesAgainst the Person Act 1861.
This act has been deemed unsatisfactory and theLaw Commission issued a draft bill suggesting reforms to both structural andspecific aspects of the offence. One of the problems ofthe law on non-fatal offences is that they are badly defined. The offence ofassault is defined as an act which causes the victim to apprehendimmediate and unlawful personal violence whereas battery is defined as theapplication of unlawful force. Although these are the definitions known to us,there is no statutory definition for either offence and the more seriousoffences in this act are over one hundred years old. The draft bill suggests that the currentoffences will be replaced with four clauses: section 18 will be replaced byclause 1, intentionally causing serious injury to another person; section 20will be replaced by clause 2, recklessly causing serious injury to anotherperson; section 47 will be replaced by clause 3, intentionally or recklesslycausing injury to another person; and assault/battery will be replaced byclause 4. The effect of this reform will be that all the non-fatal offences arefound in one place, making the law more concise and therefore easier for thejury to understand and apply. This will also solve the issue of the law being a’rag bag of offences’ by having them in one statute.
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The mens rea of section 18 has also beenseen as a problem. At this moment, those who wound or cause GBH whilst tryingto resist arrest are charged with the same crime as those who intentionallyhurt others. It is clear that the elements of the mens rea section 18 areunbalanced. However, this does help to protect police by discouraging criminalsfrom resisting arrest. It has been suggested that this part of the law shouldbe reformed to prevent miscarriages of justice. However, the redeeming factorof this element of the mens rea is that mens rea for section 20 is needed tocharge, so the defendant must intend or be reckless in causing serious harm. Theeffect of this is that it prevents situations where the defendant foresaw noharm and is charged under section 18. The reform removes this crime from clauseone, making it a separate offence.
This reform is necessary as these crimeshave clearly been thrown together without any thought for structure of consistency.