Happy slapping

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Happy slapping is a fad originating in the UK in which one or more people attack a victim for the purpose of recording the assault (commonly with a camera phone or a smartphone). Though the term usually refers to relatively minor acts of violence such as hitting or slapping the victim, more serious crimes such as the manslaughter of a pensioner[1] and sexual assault have been classified as "happy slapping" by the BBC.[2]

Use with video technology[edit]

The ease and general availability of video cameras in mobile phones means that such attacks need not be planned carefully beforehand and are more easily watched and circulated for entertainment. Some political and media commentators have suspected the craze of happy slappings was inspired by television shows Jackass, Dirty Sanchez and Bumfights.[3][4][5]


Happy slapping started in the South London Borough of Lewisham,[6][7] in a format known as "Slap Happy TV", where a happy-slapping video would be recorded, and then watched by dozens of people like a TV show, but in the form of a montage. Videos of Happy Slapping were commonly circulated via Bluetooth on mobile phones. The first newspaper article to use the phrase "happy slapping" was "Bullies film fights by phone", published in The Times Educational Supplement on 21 January 2005, in which reporter Michael Shaw described teachers' accounts of the craze in London schools.

Gary Martin, writing on "The Phrase Finder" website described the phenomenon as: "Unprovoked attacks on individuals made in order to record the event, and especially the victim's shock and surprise, on video phones."[8] He wrote that happy slapping "began as a youth craze in the UK in late 2004. Children or passers by are slapped or otherwise mugged by one or more of a gang while others record the event on video and then distribute it by phone or Internet. Initially the attacks were, as the phrase would have us believe, fairly minor pranks ... As the craze spread the attacks became more vicious – often serious assaults known in legal circles as grievous bodily harm."[8]

Legal consequences[edit]


When the international media attention surrounding attacks abroad reached a high point, a girl was sentenced to eight months in prison.[9] She was sentenced on a number of counts including previous crimes. A common punishment in 2007 was a fine or up to 40 days in prison, suspended if the attacker has no previous record.[10][11]

Happy slapping is judged as "simple battery" as defined by section 244 of the Danish Criminal Code.


In February 2007, an amendment aimed at criminalising happy slapping was added to a law "on the prevention of the delinquence" by the Parliament of France based on a proposal from then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.[12] In the final text,[13] the anti-happy-slapping clause appears as the last part of Article 44, which also deals with ambushing law enforcement personnel. The law equates filming or photographing certain classes of violent crimes, including severe beatings and rape, with being an accomplice of such crimes. The law makes it illegal to broadcast the images of such crimes, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a €75,000 fine.

The law does not apply to those who took the above actions in order to obtain evidence in court, or as professional journalism. Professional journalism is delimited in France by the "press card," which is awarded by a commission representing journalist unions and press organizations.[14] As defined by law,[15] a professional journalist is one whose main activity is professional paid journalism.

The bill was signed into law on 5 March 2007, despite some organizations, including Reporters Without Borders,[16] and the French chapter of Wikimedia,[17] arguing that this clause created a legal discrimination in criminal law between professional journalists and ordinary citizens practicing journalism. Specifically, it was argued that citizens filming incidents of police brutality and publishing such information online could be intimidated by law enforcement into remaining silent, or prosecuted for their actions. This criticism was relayed by the international media.[18]

Nicolas Sarkozy, French President, declared to Reporters Without Borders that "the spirit of the law is not to infringe of freedom of information. However, if the least doubt subsisted, then I'm in favour of a clarification of the law."[19]

United Kingdom[edit]

In March 2008, a teenage girl who filmed the fatal beating of a man on her mobile phone was sentenced to two years' detention in the first prosecution of its kind in the United Kingdom. She had pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court in February 2008 to aiding and abetting the manslaughter of Gavin Waterhouse, 29, from Keighley, West Yorkshire. Mark Masters, 19, from Keighley, and Sean Thompson, 17, from Bradford, were sentenced to seven and six years respectively after admitting to Mr Waterhouse's manslaughter. He died from a ruptured spleen after being beaten by the two youths in September 2007. Just before the attack, the girl was handed a mobile phone by one of the attackers and told to "video this", prosecutors said. She then approached Mr Waterhouse, asked for money, and recorded the subsequent attack. She was sentenced to serve a two-year detention training order. Police said they were satisfied with the court's decision. The Crown Prosecutor said "this is the first time a suspect in England and Wales has been successfully prosecuted for aiding and abetting murder or manslaughter, for the filming of an inaptly called 'happy slapping' incident".[20]

Media-reported incidents[edit]

  • United Kingdom: On 9 May 2005, a 16-year-old Plant Hill Arts College student was beaten up and left unconscious in a vicious "happy slapping" attack in Blackley. Footage of the attack was circulated on students' phones.[21]
  • United Kingdom, 18 June 2005: Police arrested three 14-year-old boys for the suspected rape of an 11-year-old girl who attended their school in Stoke Newington, London. Authorities were alerted when school staff saw footage from the students' phones.[22]
  • United Kingdom, 7 December 2005: Singer Mylene Klass was happy-slapped in Bermondsey, South London.[23]
  • United Kingdom, December 2005: A 15-year-old-girl, Chelsea O'Mahoney (her name was initially withheld, although this decision was reversed during sentencing)[24] and her co-defendants Reece Sargeant, 21, Darren Case, 18, and David Blenman, 17, were all found guilty of the manslaughter of David Morley near Waterloo Station, in London. Barry Lee, 20, and another 17-year-old were cleared of all charges. According to press reports, "The 15-year-old girl had told Morley that she was making a documentary about 'happy slapping' before her gang of friends kicked him to death."[25][26]
  • Denmark, 10 May 2006: Two men aged 17 and 19 attacked a woman in Copenhagen; one kicked the victim while the other filmed the incident using a mobile phone. Two plain clothes police officers saw the incident, and the assailants were immediately arrested and the mobile phone confiscated.[27]
  • Sweden, 1 September 2006: After a 16-year-old boy happy-slapped and hospitalised a 15-year-old Balkan boy in the city of Örebro, the victim's 17-year-old sister stabbed and killed the assailant with a hunting knife and claimed self-defence. The happy-slapping was filmed and distributed online.[28]
  • Australia, 23 October 2006: Police in Victoria launched an investigation into the production and distribution of a DVD entitled; Cunt: The Movie featuring footage of several youths sexually assaulting a girl and setting her hair on fire. DVD copies were allegedly sold at the Werribee Secondary College for $10.[29][30]
  • United Kingdom, 26 January 2007: Andrew Elvin, 17, was jailed for a minimum of 12 years for the murder of Luke Salisbury, who died three days after being attacked by Elvin on 2 March 2006. Caine Hallett, 18, was sentenced to five years for manslaughter for the same incident, while Danielle Reeves, 18, faced a retrial in May 2007 for manslaughter.[31]
  • United Kingdom, 14 February 2007: Eight youths set upon a 31-year-old man in Brighton, who turned out to be an amateur boxer. Two of the youths were hospitalised by the intended victim and four were arrested for causing an affray.[32]
  • United Kingdom, July 2007: Anthony Anderson, 27, of Hartlepool, urinated on a dying woman while a friend made a video of the incident. He is reported to have yelled "This is YouTube material!" [33]
  • United Kingdom, November 2007: Emily Nakanda, 15, a contestant in the TV show The X Factor, withdrew from the competition after a happy slapping video in which Nakanda allegedly attacks a teenage girl was discovered on the internet.[34]
  • United Kingdom, February 2008: A 15-year-old girl admitted filming the death of Gavin Waterhouse, 29, in a "happy slapping" attack which ruptured his spleen,[35] and was convicted of aiding and abetting manslaughter.[36] She was sentenced to two years detention. The judge stated that the courts had to make an example of such youths.[37]
  • United Kingdom, May 2008: A teenage girl fell to her death from an attic window while trying to escape a "happy slapping" girl gang.[38]
  • United Kingdom, August 2009: Ekram Haque, a retired care worker was assaulted and killed by two teens as he left his house of worship.[39] Haque's attack was the subject of a BBC3 episode of Our Crime.[40]

In fiction[edit]

The group of British teenagers in the movie Eden Lake filmed the torturing of Steve and the burning of a little boy.

In Harry Brown, a teenager films the murder of an elderly man, which Michael Caine's character uses as evidence to inflict pain on the teenager.

In Series 2 Episode 1 of British political satire The Thick of It, Hugh tells Glenn to happy slap Ollie while Hugh takes a picture of it on Ollie's phone.

In Coronation Street in November 2013, Simon Barlow was the victim of a happy slapping incident caused by Faye Windass and Grace Piper. Simon was attacked, forced into one of his cousin Amy's dresses and had lipstick tried to be applied to him. Grace filmed while Faye attacked him.

In 2011, Canadian filmmaker Christos Sourligas directed a film, also called Happy Slapping, about this phenomenon. The film was shot entirely on iPhone 4s by the cast.[41] It was re-edited in 2014 with new material to accommodate the "selfie"-obsessed market.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "'Happy slapping' gang members admit killing Ekram Haque". BBC News. 16 June 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  2. ^ "Sex attack phone girls detained". BBC News. 30 August 2007. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  3. ^ "TV to blame for 'happy slapping' craze". Manchester Evening News. 30 June 2005. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  4. ^ "'Don't ban' slap attack TV shows". BBC News. 12 May 2005. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  5. ^ Watt, Nick (17 May 2006). "'Happy Slapping' Spreads in London". ABC News. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  6. ^ Akwagyiram, Alexis (2005-05-12). "Does 'happy slapping' exist?". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  7. ^ Johnston, Chris (2005-05-20). "Happy-slap link to TV shows". The Times. London. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  8. ^ a b Martin, Gary. "Happy slapping". phrases.org.uk. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  9. ^ 8-måneders fængsel for 'happy slapping', Netavisen Sjaelland, November 9, 2006 (8 months jail for Happy Slapping)
  10. ^ Oversigt over straffene i voldssager efter ændringen af straffelovens §§ 244–246, Prosecutor General of Denmark (Overview of punishments in cases of violence after change of §244–246)
  11. ^ Slap med bøde for happy slapping, by Peter Banke, BT, April 19, 2006 (Got off with a fine for Happy slapping)
  12. ^ (French) Legislative file on the site of the French National Assembly
  13. ^ (French) Law #2007-297
  14. ^ Commission de la carte d'identité des journalistes professionnels
  15. ^ Work Code, article L761-2, article L761-15, article L761-16
  16. ^ "Communiqué". Reporters Without Borders. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  17. ^ (French) Communiqué
  18. ^ Times Online, March 9, 2007; Associated Press, March 11, 2007; Weekly Standard, March 14, 2007
  19. ^ Communiqué from Reporters without Borders, April 13, 2007; answer by Nicolas Sarkozy
  20. ^ News.com
  21. ^ "Mother rages at 'slap attackers'". BBC News. 2005-05-19. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  22. ^ Sulaiman, Tosin (2005-06-18). "Girl's rape 'filmed by teenagers on mobile'". The Times. London. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  23. ^ Robertson, Cameron (2005-12-08). "Myleene's Happy Slap Hell". The Mirror. London. Retrieved 2010-07-06. 
  24. ^ "Youths jailed for barman killing". BBC News. 2007-01-23. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  25. ^ Summers, Chris (2005-12-14). "Feral pack who thrived on violence". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  26. ^ "Jail For Happy Slap Killers". Sky News. 2006-01-23. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  27. ^ "Mænd sparkede tilfældig, mens politiet så det", Jyllands-Posten, May 11, 2006
  28. ^ "Isosisko pisti kuoliaaksi pikkuveljensä hakkaajan Örebrossa". Turun Sanomat (in Finnish). 2006-09-05. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  29. ^ "DVD school in despair". The Age. Melbourne. 2006-10-27. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  30. ^ "Teens face DVD porn charges". The Age. Melbourne. 2007-03-08. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  31. ^ "Life for 'happy slap' murder boy". BBC News. 2007-01-26. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  32. ^ "Six teens bailed in 'happy slap' inquiry". The Argus. 2007-02-14. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  33. ^ USA Today: Man urinates on dying woman, declaring it "YouTube material"
  34. ^ "X Factor Emily pulls out of show". BBC News. 2 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  35. ^ "Happy slap attack girl guilty". BBC News. 14 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  36. ^ "'Happy slap' death girl convicted". BBC News. February 14, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  37. ^ Balakrishnan, Angela (March 18, 2008). "Girl jailed for filming 'happy-slap' killing". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  38. ^ "Teen girl dies fleeing 'happy slap' gang". news.com.au. 2008-05-20. Archived from the original on May 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  39. ^ BBC News, Attorney General to review "happy-slap" sentence
  40. ^ BBC3, BBC3 Our Crime "Attacked"
  41. ^ Vlessing, Etan. "Canadian 'Happy Slapping' Feature Shot Solely By Actors Using iPhone 4". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  42. ^ Brownstein, Bill. "Filmmakers pick up the phone for an update of Happy Slapping". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 

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