• In the case of DPP v Smith 2006 EWHC 94 Admin, it was held that cutting off hair without an individual’s consent was an offence under the Offences against the Person Act 1861 of assault causing actual bodily harm.

Facts of the Case

  • The appellant (DPP) appealed a ruling of no case to answer made by the magistrate’s court on a charge against the respondent (S) of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
  • The injury or harm alleged was the cutting off the victim’s ponytail.
  • The justices accepted S’s submission that cutting a person hair could amount to no more than common assault.
  • The DPP argued that bruising or bleeding was not necessary and that bodily harm, construed according to its ordinary meaning, meant any hurt or injury calculated to interfere with the victim’s health and or comfort.  

Issues in DPP v Smith 2006 EWHC 94 Admin

  • Could cutting off one’s ponytail amount to harm for the purposes of the act.

Held by Court

  • Appeal allowed

Cresswell J

  • Here, it was held that ‘harm’ in the ordinary meaning of the language was not limited to injury but extended to hurt or damage.
  • Actual bodily harm was not limited to the victim’s skin, flesh, and bones, but applied to all parts of the body.
  •  “The body, for the purposes of the word “bodily” in section 47 of the 1861 Act, includes all parts of the body, including the hairs upon the scalp. On the evidence called by the prosecution, there was a case to answer of actual bodily harm. As the President has said, to a woman her hair is a vitally important part of her body. Where a significant portion of a woman’s hair is cut off without her consent, this is a serious matter amounting to actual (not trivial or insignificant) bodily harm.” [21]