Highlights on Assault in Tort

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Assault in Tort

an act which causes a claimant to apprehend that immediate physical violence will be used on him or her


Elements of Assault

1. The defendant must act

2. Reasonable expectation of physical violence from the defendant’s action.


Thomas v National Union of Mineworkers

Authority for: an act only constitutes assault if it is reasonable to apprehend imminent physical harm. In this case, the working miners were protected from any harm from striking miners, and could not thus be assaulted due to protection rendering any physical harm impossible.


Words and Assault

Words may reveal that a party did not intend to cause physical harm despite displaying a threatening act. See Tuberville v Savage where the words "If it were not assize-time, I would not take such language from you" was held to reveal a lack of intention to harm.


R v St George

Authority for: if a party makes an empty threat (no intention of harming the other), yet the other party reasonably believes he/she is about to be harmed, then the empty threat constitutes an assault. In this case, an unloaded gun was pointed at the claimant, he believed it loaded, court held he was assaulted.


Read v Coker

A conditional threat that causes a reasonable apprehension of harm constitutes an assault. In this case, defendant threatened to break the neck of plaintiff if plaintiff did not leave the premises. Court held the conditional threat constituted an assault