Assault is the crime of violence against another person. In some jurisdictions (e.g. Australia), assault is used to refer to the actual violence, while in other jurisdictions (e.g. some in the United States, England and Wales), assault refers only to the threat of violence, while the actual violence is battery. Simple assaults do not involve weapons; aggravated assaults do.
Assault is often defined to include not only violence, but any physical contact with another person without their consent. When assault is defined like this, exceptions are provided to cover such things as normal social intercourse (for example, patting someone on the back).
English law makes distinctions based on the degree of injury, between:
- common assault (which can be even the most minor assault)
- assault with actual bodily harm (ABH)
- assault with grievous bodily harm (GBH)
In some jurisdictions, consent is a defence to assault, while in other jurisdictions (most notably England) it is not. This can have important consequences when dealing with issues such as sadomasochistic sexual activity. In England, several men have been successfully convicted of assault for engaging in sadomasochistic activities, even though the activity was consensual; the most notable case being the Operation Spanner case.
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