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May a person consent to an assault Brown 1993 2 All ER 75 House of Lords In Browns case the House of Lords were split on the issue of whether the consent of victims could be defence to a charge of assault The 32 majority based their judgment on the general rule that a victim cannot consent to an assault occasioning actual bodily harm or more unless the defendants actions were within lawfully recognised exceptions This decision has been widely criticised for placing limits on individual autonomy Browns case involved a group of men who engaged in consensual sado-masochistic activities over a period of ten years The activity came to the attention of the police because it had been videotaped and subsequently distributed Five of the men were charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and wounding The accused appealed to the House of Lords Lord Templeman in the majority held the view that a general rule exists in relation to consent namely that consent ordinarily precludes liability in cases of assault Examples of lawfully recognised exceptions to this general rule include properly conducted sports such as boxing medical and dental treatment tattooing and bona fide religious mortifications In his Lordships view the question becomes whether sado-masochistic activities should be an additional exception to this general rule Lord Templeman explicitly states that his decision will be made by consideration of policy and public interests Rather than expanding on the concept of policy and public interest he continued by expressing his personal distaste for sexual violence and focuses on the risk of serious permanent injuries even though the appellants activities did not result in any permanent injuries His Lordship concludes his argument with the following words Society is entitled and bound to protect itself against a cult of violence Pleasure derived from the infliction of pain is an evil thing Cruelty is uncivilised The appeals were dismissed on the grounds
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