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Thomas v NUM

Mentioned in Source 2.

Facts and Desisions

Thomas, the claimant, was a miner who continued to go to work during the miners’ strike, which was organised by the National Union of Miners, the defendant. Thomas and other workers were ‘bussed’ into work each day through an aggressive crowd of pickets who made violent gestures and shouted threats to those on the bus, including Thomas. The pickets were held back by police, and he was protected by the bus anyway. The threats made by the picketers could therefore not be carried out, resulting in no assault against Thomas. (description in source 2, lines 28-32)

How did it change the law?

It narrowed the law, as a threatening act had to give the claimant immediate fear of an attack. Immediacy is key, (reference to source 2, lines 32-34) Heard in the House of Lords, so is a leading case.

Has it achieved justice in the law?

For the claimant it was unfair as he may have felt scared, particularly as they outnumbered him and appeared to be angry. For the defendants, it was fair as they may well have been making empty threats with the intent of scaring the claimant a little, yet if stood face to face they would probably have reacted less aggressively. Scott LJ said “There can, however, be no dispute but that the feelings on the part of the striking miners against fellow miners who have returned to work run very high…” The law must strike a balance between conflicting rights and interests.

The law also looks at the reasonableness of each individual case (source 2, lines 44-47)

What is its significance for the developments of the law?

By adding immediacy as a key requirement for an assault, the case has prevented a floodgate of claims, as most of us make or recieve threats that hold no ground or have no immediate intent behind them. An example of this is roadrage, if we were not encased within the protective shell of our cars, most threats would not even get made. If every case was took to court, people with no real intent would be found guilty and it would use up resources.

References with other cases.

This case was preceded by Stephens v Myers, which said if a threat of attack is immediate, yet a barrier is created afterwards, the defendant will still be liable.

In the case of R v Ireland, the defendant was guilty for breathing down a phone. Even though no words were used in the phone call, it was deemed that its intent was to create fear. In addition if somebody is on a phone you cannot see where they are. The threat may be immediate as they could be standing outside your house, yet one cannot know. This case only holds persuasive authority though as it was held in a criminal court. (source 2, lines 13-23)

Turberville v Savage also looks at how words can affect a threat, in this case the defendent stated he would not harm the claimant. This created a metaphorical barrier preventing immediacy which negated the assault. (source 2, lines 24-25)

Read v Coker (source 1, lines 1-5) is an example of an immediate threat of battery.