The appellant, Alexis Collins (Collins), and another woman, a known prostitute, were seen by police officers soliciting men on the street. One of the police officers, Tracey Wilcock (Wilcock), approached Collins to try to speak to her but Collins walked away. The Wilcock swore at Collins when Collins persisted. Wilcock took hold of Collins’s arm and Collins swore once again and scratched Willcock. Collins was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer. Collins was convicted and she appealed to the High Court.
The issue is whether the police officer was acting in the execution of her duty when detaining Collins against her will for the purpose of questioning her regarding her identity and her conduct which was such as to lead the officer to believe she may have been soliciting men.
Wilcock’s act of taking hold of Collins’s arm was unlawful and amounted to a battery. This is because this went beyond the generally acceptable conduct of touching a person to engage his or her attention and thus her actions were unlawful. It did not matter that Wilcock did not intend for her actions to be unlawful, i.e. an act of battery. Since Wilcock had committed an unlawful act, she was deemed not to be acting in the execution of her duty at the time when the assault, if any, took place.
Therefore Collin’s appeal was allowed and her conviction was quashed.
Collins v Wilcock established the principle that the requisite mental element is of no relevance. (i.e. the person’s intention for the action to constitute an unlawful force.) The requisite mental element is the intention for the action to happen. (i.e. whether the person was aware of his or her actions)
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