Our first year LLB students had a guest speaker in their criminal law lecture last week. Student Kirsty Pybus gives us the details!
NON-FATAL OFFENCES AGAINST THE PERSON
A retired Police Officer came to talk to our Law degree students about the law in reality. He had worked within the force for 30 years, starting as Police Constable and before retiring was an Inspector in the Counter Terrorism Squad. His talk was about non-fatal offences against the person. It was designed to give us an insight into today’s policing and how this public role differs from that of a legal advocate.
A non-fatal offence is Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm, contrary to section 47 Offences against the Person Act 1861. The offence is committed when a person assaults another.
For present purposes the OAPA 1861 is split up into 3 provisions.
provisions which require a specific intent (sections 11 to 14, 18, 21, 22, 24, 29 to 33, 38 to 40);
provisions which use the words ‘unlawfully’ and ‘maliciously’ in connection with a positive act (sections 17, 20, 23, 28);
provisions which do not use the words ‘maliciously’ or ‘unlawfully’ at all (sections 34–37, 41, 47)
Our guest spoke in detail about s47, s20 and s18.
S47: Actual bodily harm; Common assault;
S20: Unlawful wounding; inflicting bodily injury, with or without a weapon;
S18: Wounding with attempt; shooting or attempting to shoot, or wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm. He explained that s47 ABH is applied when there is bruising to a victim, a doctors statement would be used to confirm this along with photographic evidence. Common assault s39 covers reddening of the skin. It is the lowest level of assault and hard to enforce, therefore we did not discuss this section further. S20 is used when wounding of the skin has occurred causing a bleed. S18 GBH with intent is the most serious and could carry a sentence of life imprisonment. S18 also covers resisting arrest.
There are specific laws that cover assaults on Police Officers, Prison Officers and Immigration Officers. Our guest explained that should a member of the public run to the aid of a police officer during an assault and was assaulted themselves then this is also covered specifically. Unfortunately there are no laws at present that outlines that it is an offence to assault a paramedic although the offenders are dealt with more severely.
It was pointed out that under English law, sexual offences are generally considered separately, since they differ substantially from other offences against the person in theoretical basis and composition. Sexual offences may be committed “with intent”, meaning there is an additional mens rea component that makes the defendant more culpable for their actions. Whilst recklessness is sufficient for most offences against the person.
It was discussed in detail, scenarios and actual events that had taken place during his career within the police. How a person may be arrested for an s18 assault, but yet the Crown Prosecution Service or whilst in court, the offender may actually only be found guilty of an s20. Our guest explained that sometimes this can be frustrating for the officers involved but if the offender will plead guilty to s20 but not the s18 if they feel it is a justified punishment for the crime they will settle for this as it saves money and time of a lengthy trial. It is fair to say that many officers at some point of their career will be accused of assault. The Criminal Law Act 1967 s3 and s117 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes of practice outlines what level of force an officer can use in his line of duty.
The talk was very informative to all the students, and it gave a real insight to the work and role of the police. Personally I found this exceptionally useful as I would like a career in the police after my degree. I discussed with him how I have been going through the recruitment process for special constables and if he felt this would be useful to me? Our guest speaker advised me that he thought it would be great experience and the only way to work towards becoming a regular officer in the future. He also touched on the requirements needed to be a special constable and the recruitment process should any of the other students be interested. I think I can speak for the class when I say we all thoroughly enjoyed the lesson and learnt a lot. I feel guest speakers and day visits of a practical nature are really useful alongside academic studies. I feel it helps those students whom are unsure where they would like to go in their legal career, it gives students a more detailed knowledge of all aspects of the legal sector, helping them to make a more informative decision when contemplating their futures.