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A battery is the direct and intentional application of force by the defendant, however slight, upon the claimant; it can be used when there is no consent or legal justification.

A slightly longer explanation...

According  to the oxford dictionary, a battery is "a combination of two or more cells electrically connected to work together to produce electric energy" Hey, I couldnt resist! It is also "the action of battering or assailing with blows; an unlawful attack upon another by beating, etc., including the least touching of a person or clothes in a menacing manner". In tort law this is accurate, even a slight touch can account to a battery. It is also not just clothes - if one was to throw a stick in someones bike spokes, causing them to ride into a tree, it would account to a battery. But apart from the obvious stabbing, kicking, punching etc what can count as a battery?

Pursell v Horn - In this case Horn got horny and wanted to have a wet t-shirt competion. Pursel's clothes got covered in water thrown by Horn. This was a battery.

Nash v Sheen - Nash went to the hairdressers for a permanent wave and ended up with a tone rinse. This mistake cause her hair to turn a manky colour and gave her a rash all over her body.

Other examples include spitting on the claimant's face as in R v Cottesworth; another example is cutting the claimants hair without permission as in Ford v Skinner.

What is an application of force?

In society we often touch, it would be nearly impossible to always walk down any corridor without brushing or bumping someone. Even if we intend to touch someone such as a handshake, it is counted as 'social touching'. In one old case, Cole v Turner (Source Case), it was held by Holt CJ that 'the least touching of someone in anger is battery'.
But what about a cheeky bum pinch from a colleage, or a kiss from that creepy guy down the alley?

Collins v Wilcock (Source Case)- A police officer was liable for battery when she held a suspects arm, but did not arrest her. Lord Goff felt that the test was 'whether or not the contact was acceptable within the conduct of normal life'.

Wilson v Pringle (Source Case) - As a schoolboy prank, the defendant pulled another 13-year old pupils bag, causing the claimant to fall over and suffer hip injuries. The court held that hostility was a necessary element of an actionable battery.

But what if you are a doctor and have to treat patients? Doctors are not hostile when trying to help you so under this reasoning cannot be sued, In such cases the doctor must gain consent to treat a patient, this could be as simple as holding an arm out, waiting to receive an injection. In other cases it may be harder to see what consent is.

F v West Berkshire HA - A mental woman became sexually active with another person in her institution. She was in her thirties but had a mental age of around five. Doctors feared that she would become pregnant and wanted to sterilise her as she wouldnt be incapable of raising a child. She was unable to consent so doctors went to court to see if they could do it anyway. It was held to be in her best interests to have sterilisation. Lord Goff later said in Re F (the same case but later) the principle still stood that adult competent patients must consent, or it is considered battery.

Other medical cases, and sports cases are looked at in more detail on the defences page.

The defendants intentions.

It used to be believed that battery was a strict liability offence, but now intention is regarded as a required mental state. As mentioned earlier in the case of Wilson v Pringle (Source Case) this can help distinguish against mere social touching and other such banter.

Fowler v Lanning - The claimant was shot by the defendant. The claimant, believing battery was strict liability only referred to the fact he had been shot in his claim. He did not give reasons to why it happened, which was required.

Letang v Cooper (Source Case) - A woman was sunbathing in a hotel area, which was close to the carpark. (Why would you want to sunbathe next to a car park!?). The defendant accidentally reversed, crushing her legs. There was no intention to hurt her, but she could have sued for negligence. She decided she wanted to sue after the limitation period (3 years), so choose battery to get compensation. Lord Denning felt there could be no overlap for trespass and negligence; Lord Diplock felt there may be.

Transferred malice

Picture
A horsey and a firework being thrown, if only somebody was getting shot too *sigh*
What if you set out to hurt someone but they move out of the way? You didnt intent to hurt that person at all. This is where transferred comes in, allowing the defendant to be liable.

Livingstone v Minister of Defence - The defendant shot the claimant, but had intended to hit another person. The defendant argued he should not be liable, as he did not intend on hurting the claimant. It was held that the defendant did have intent to cause injury to someone, and as the claimant was the ultimate victim, meant he should be compensated. The defendant was liable.

Scott v Shepherd - The defendant was slightly crazy and threw a firework into a market. Two other people thought it might go off next to them so threw it again, like the game 'hot potato'. It ultimately hurt Scott, and Shepard was liable for battery.

Gibbons v Pepper - A whipped horse bolted, trampling the claimant. The defendant, who whipped the horse was liable for the claimants injuries.

...and thats all folks! Now head onto false imprisonment. Don't get carried away!_