Collins v. Wilcock [1984] 3 All ER 374

Key point

  • This case states the actus reus of battery: the touching of another person without consent, such consent may be implied where necessitated by daily life

Facts

  • 2 police officers suspected D was soliciting for prostitution
  • D walked away and the officer grabbed her arm
  • D swore and scratched the officer’s arm
  • D was convicted of assault on the officer
  • Issue arose as to whether the officer had acted committed battery and thus acted in excess of her powers

Held (Divisional Court)

  • Appeal allowed – D’s conviction was overturned
  • The officer had committed battery and thus unlawfully detained D

Robert Goff LJ

  • Any touching of another person, however slight, may amount to a battery
  • However, given the broad principle, there must be exceptions, a broader exception is where there is implied consent for touching that is necessitated by the ‘exigencies of everyday life’
  • An example is touching someone to gain their attention, but only when ‘using no greater degree of physical contact than is reasonably necessary in the circumstances for that purpose’
  • In this case, because the officer’s action of restraining D ‘went beyond the generally acceptable conduct of touching a person to engage his or her attention’ and thus constituted a battery

Commentary

  • As to why mere touching can constitute battery, Robert Goff LJ cited Blackstone’s Commentaries: “the law cannot draw the line between different degrees of violence, and therefore totally prohibits the first and lowest stage of it; every man’s person being sacred, and no other having a right to meddle with it, in any the slightest manner.”