Stephens v Myers – Case Summary

Stephens v Myers

High Court

Citations: [1830] EWHC J37; [1830] 4 Car & P 350.


The claimant was chairing a meeting at a local parish. The defendant sat at the other end of the table. The discussion became very heated. The defendant got out of his chair and told the claimant that he would ‘rather pull the chairman out of the chair, than be turned out of the room’. He then advanced on the claimant shaking his fist. Witnesses thought that the defendant’s intent was to hit the claimant. However, he was stopped by the churchwarden before he got near enough to strike.

The claimant sued the defendant for assault. The defendant argued that it was not an assault because he had no power to carry out any threat.

  1. Were the defendant’s words or actions an assault?

The court held that the defendant’s words and actions would constitute an assault if the defendant had the means to carry out his threat. This would be the case if the defendant was advancing in a threatening manner such that his blow would have reached the claimant had he not been stopped by a third-party. The jury gave their verdict for the claimant, finding that the defendant had committed an assault.

This Case is Authority For…

Tindall CJ stated that ‘It is not every threat, when there is no actual personal violence, that constitutes an assault, there must, in all cases, be the means of carrying the threat into effect.’


Tindall CJ also stated that the tort requires the defendant to intend to inflict the assault.