Is it an offence to remove or knock off someone's hat without consent?

An example would be A civilian removing a policeman's hat without using any force.

A civilian removing another's baseball cap without any force.

  • What do you mean "without any force"? Maybe you will do it gently, but you'll still exert some force on the hat, and the hat will exert some force on the head. (That's a matter of law, I guess: Newton's First Law.) That should be enough to constitute assault and possibly battery. – Nate Eldredge Nov 19 '15 at 13:43
  • I can't think of a better word than force for what I mean. As in. There is no aggression, no more force than you would apply when taking off your own hat. – Terry Nov 19 '15 at 13:46
  • You are describing a BATTERY. Battery is usually a crime and is a civil tort. – user3344003 Nov 19 '15 at 14:14
  • @Terry, you are conflating force and violence. Literal physical force is applied in the situation you describe, albeit slight force. There can be "aggression" without actual force. The better word is "violence", given what you apparently intended. – user6726 Oct 24 '19 at 19:53
  • A policeman will be able to legally inconvenience you. If you remove his hat, he will. – gnasher729 Oct 26 '19 at 10:32


Not a UK source but from the Judicial Commission of NSW:

An assault is any act — and not a mere omission to act — by which a person intentionally — or recklessly — causes another to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence: R v Burstow; R v Ireland [1998] 1 AC 147. Thus it is the fear which is the gist of assault.

If in removing the hat you engender fear of immediate and unlawful violence then you have assaulted the hat wearer. If the act does not create that fear, you haven't.


Herring, Criminal Law: Text, Cases, and Materials (8 edn, 2018). p. 316.

enter image description here

If hats are regarded as clothing, then as per the red underline, the answer is yes.

  • Is that a question, or an answer? – user6726 Oct 24 '19 at 19:24
  • 2
    I think that the answer would be yes based upon those authorities. It appears that a de minimus exception is not recognized in the English criminal law of battery, and that indirect contact can constitute battery. This said, it would have to be a pretty slow news day at the police station, or a case of an ulterior motive for the prosecution, to actually press charges in a case like that one. Usually, such cases would be ignored due to press of business and the sentence imposed would probably be minimal. – ohwilleke Oct 24 '19 at 19:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.