Kodilinye(Nigerian Law of Torts, op.cit.p.12), defines assault as ‘’any act which puts the plaintiff in fear that battery is about to be committed against him.’’ It does not have a universal definition.
Elements of Assault
1. It must be direct and intentional:
It has to be proved that the action of the tortfeasor was intentional and directed towards the claimant.
2. There was threat to apply force:
There can be assault without battery and battery without assault. In assault, What needs to be proved is that it was reasonable for the plaintiff to expect immediate battery. Thus in R v St George, the defendant pointed a gun he knew was unloaded at the plaintiff who did not know it was unloaded, at such a distance that the complainant could have been hurt if the gun was fired. On a claim of assault the court held: that there was an assault.
In the past, mere threatening words lacking action/conduct were not regarded as assault but due to advanced technology like telephones, emails and social network, it is considered as assault. However, the opposite might happen in some cases-Tuberville vs Savage, the defendant put his hand on his sword which act amounted to a threat and said ‘’if it were not assize time(court session time) I would not take such language from you.’’ Thus, the court held that by Tuberville’s action and words, he meant that he would not assault savage at that point.
4. The act will put a reasonable man in fear of battery:
This test is an objective test. If the defendant was prevented from carrying out the threat, it would still be an assault, if he was advancing with that intent as held in the case of Stevens vs Myers.