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Visiting Prague on a trip round Europe I vividly remember being warned that if our party were too noisy outside a residents window at night we might have eggs dropped on us. We certainly didn't make that mistake.

Now I live in a flat in a UK city, in a student area. It is not an uncommon occurrence for someone to stop and have a conversation outside my window in the wee hours. I have even been treated to drunken guitar renditions of pop songs, that where not that great to begin with. It's because there is a sheltered archway there, and so its a nice dry place to stop on the way home from a good night out. Most of the time, if asked to move on, people will oblige. If they are particularly drunk, however, they may decide that they would rather stay right outside my window. Furthermore, being drunk doesn't noticeably make them any quieter.

I could call the police (non-emergancy) at this point, this behaviour probably counts as "drunk and disorderly". But at 2 in the morning, I really just want to get back to sleep. The police probably have better things to do with their time as well.

So would there be legal ramifications to employing a water pistol in this situation?

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    If you film the act, at least then if something goes terribly wrong for you you will have a million hit youtube video to cash in on
    – Mr. A
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 18:16
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    And of course, the subsidiary question, "What amount of violence can I use against someone who's squirting me with a strange fluid?"
    – Richard
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 0:03

2 Answers 2

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In terms of legal ramifications, throwing (or shooting) water onto someone is an assault.

A person is guilty of common assault if they either inflict violence on another person – however slight this might be – or make that person think they are about to be attacked.

They do not have to be physically violent – for example, threatening words or a raised fist could lead the victim to believe they are going to be attacked – and that is enough for the crime to have been committed. Other acts like spitting at someone may also classed as common assault.

Sentencing Council - Assault offences explained

Not only is this theoretically the case, but people have been actively convicted (1, 2, 3 etc) of doing basically what you're intending to do.


For the record, throwing water at people could easily be mis-construed as an acid attack and the person in question would be well within their rights to use a proportionate amount of violence against you in self-defence, including punching you on your nose.

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  • Spit is a bodily fluid. Plain water is not. Do you have reference to demonstrate that the same type of water that may spontaneously fall from the sky would be unlawful to pour on someone deliberately?
    – grovkin
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 23:58
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    @grovkin - In each of the examples, the perpetrator was using plain water.
    – Richard
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 0:00
  • it could be many things. It could be just plain boiled water (which would still cause bodily harm). I don't doubt that they may have a right to defend themselves. I would just like to see what law would be broken if it turns out, after the fact, that it was actual plain water (that wasn't too hot or too cold). I just don't see how the quote about assault applies.
    – grovkin
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 0:07
  • @grovkin - In each of the listed cases, the perpetrator caused plain water to be put onto the person. They were then subsequently charged and convicted of common assault, except in the third case where they were convicted of common assault with beating (presumably to reflect that they also employed menaces). This is "inflict[ing] violence on another person"
    – Richard
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 0:12
  • The 2nd case involved a projectile (a cup) that contained the water. I understand that in the other 2 cases the court found that pouring water rose to the level of "inflicting violence on another person." But because it's the same water that can spontaneously fall from the sky, I am curious what standard the court uses for what is and what isn't "inflicting violence on another person." I don't doubt that some courts have decided in this manner. I just think the answer would be improved by a reference to the legal standard which guides the courts' decisions.
    – grovkin
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 0:44
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First, there is the possibility that the person could respond with a real pistol - there would be legal ramifications there but unfortunately they would involve you as the victim.

What you are proposing is nominally assault, however, you are unlikely to be arrested for it.

A better option is to gently escalate the conflict by telling them you will call the police. If that doesn't work call the police and tell them that you have.

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    I live in the UK, so I am probably safe from pistols. Almost no one owns or carries a gun in the UK.
    – Jekowl
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 20:48
  • @Jekowl: Along with this: if the other person mistakes your water pistol for a real pistol you might very well be woken back up by the police storming into your flat.
    – NotMe
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 3:12

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