Criminal law exam 101: City lawyer guilty of battery after chasing girlfriend and spitting at her

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Saga has similarities to classic R v Cotesworth case

It’s happened — we can finally apply the classic R v Cotesworth case, where the defendant spat in a doctor’s face, to a modern day scenario involving a jealous Deloitte lawyer.

Matt Owen, a 2:1 business graduate from the University of Birmingham, saw red when his girlfriend left his ‘bottomless brunch’ birthday party. According to CourtNewsUK (£), all boozed up, he chased her in a jealous rage. He shouted in the streets about her being with “other men”. Grabbing hold of her wrists, he continued to yell abuse at the victim before spitting in her face, twice.

This scenario sounds like something from a criminal law exam. Law students will probably identify the offence as a battery, the intentional use of unlawful force on someone without their consent. Spitting falls into that bag, and can therefore amount to a battery (or an ‘assault by beating’) providing you don’t miss them.

You then need to prove the intent element of the offence. For this you may want to consider his intoxicated state and that he “claims to have no memory of the attack”, according to CourtNewsUK. But then you’ll remember what your criminal law tutor reminds you every lecture: drunken intent is still intent.

The 33-year-old, who did his Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) at The University of Law in Moorgate (then The College of Law), was found guilty on one count of assault by beating. He was handed an 18-month community order — which includes 30 days of rehab and 40 hours of unpaid work — and ordered to pay £170 by Westminster Magistrates’ Court. Since Owen had no previous convictions and pleaded guilty, he was not given a prison sentence.

£170 might be a peanut sum for a City lawyer, but the rest is quite a blow to his impressive CV. Having completed his training contract at Pinsent Masons, he then qualified as an associate at Clyde & Co. He went on to work in Dubai for nearly two years before bagging a place at elite accountancy firm Deloitte.

The case will have to be reported to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

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