Tag Archives: violence

Wounding or GBH with Intent

Legislation: Offences Against the Person Act 1861 s 18

Definition: This offence is committed when a person unlawfully and maliciously, with intent to do some grievous bodily harm, or with intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainer of any other person, either:

  1. wounds another person; or
  2. causes grievous bodily harm to another person.

Explanation: The distinction between charges under section 18 and section 20 is one of intent. The gravity of the injury resulting is not the determining factor, although it may provide some evidence of intent.

For the definition of wounding and grievous bodily harm, see the section 20 section above.

Mode of trial: Indictment only (Crown Court)

Maximum sentence: Life imprisonment

CPS guidance: Factors that may indicate the specific intent include:

  1. a repeated or planned attack;
  2. deliberate selection of a weapon or adaptation of an article to cause injury, such as breaking a glass before an attack;
  3. making prior threats;
  4. using an offensive weapon against, or kicking the victim’s head.

Grievous bodily harm/unlawful wounding

Legislation: Offences Against the Person Act 1861 s 20

Racially aggravated common assault: Crime and Disorder Act 1998 s 29

Definition: This offence is committed when a person unlawfully and maliciously, either:

  1. wounds another person; or
  2. inflicts grievous bodily harm upon another person.

Explanation: Wounding means the breaking of the continuity of the whole of the outer skin, or the inner skin within the cheek or lip. It does not include the rupturing of internal blood vessels.

Grievous bodily harm means really serious bodily harm. It is for the jury to decide whether the harm is really serious. However, examples of what would usually amount to really serious harm include:

  1. injury resulting in permanent disability, loss of sensory function or visible disfigurement; broken or displaced limbs or bones, including fractured skull, compound fractures, broken cheek bone, jaw, ribs, etc;
  2. injuries which cause substantial loss of blood, usually necessitating a transfusion or result in lengthy treatment or incapacity;
  3. serious psychiatric injury. As with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, appropriate expert evidence is essential to prove the injury.

Mode of trial:Triable either way

Maximum sentence: 6 months (Magistrates’ Court) 5 years (Crown Court) 7 years (racially aggravated offence, in the Crown Court only)

Examples: Punches, kicks, head-butts, and the use of weapons where injuries such as a laceration or incised wound. Injuries caused by bottles or knives may constitute GBH. Recklessly passing on a sexually transmitted infection may constitute a section 20 GBH.

CPS guidanceThe definition of wounding may encompass injuries that are relatively minor in nature, for example a small cut or laceration. An assault resulting in such minor injuries should more appropriately be charged as Common Assault or, where a sentence of more than 6 months’ imprisonment is likely, ABH. An offence contrary to section 20 should be reserved for those wounds considered to be really serious (thus equating the offence with the infliction of grievous, or serious, bodily harm under the other part of the section).

Assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)

Legislation: Offences Against the Person Act 1861 s 47

Racially aggravated common assault: Crime and Disorder Act 1998 s 29

Definition: Where a person commits an assault against another, thereby causing ABH. Bodily harm has its ordinary meaning and includes any hurt calculated to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim: such hurt need not be permanent, but must be more than transient and trifling

Explanation: Section 47 is charged where the injuries are serious and/or where the likely sentence is viewed as being in excess of 6 months.

Mode of trial:Triable either way

Maximum sentence: 6 months (Magistrates’ Court) 5 years (Crown Court) 7 years (racially aggravated offence, in the Crown Court only)

Examples: Punches, kicks, head-butts, and the use of weapons where injuries such as a broken nose, black eyes, bruising, grazes, cuts are caused.

CPS guidance: Where the injuries exceed those that can suitably be reflected by Common Assault – namely where the injuries are serious – a charge of ABH should normally be preferred.

In determining whether or not the injuries are serious, relevant factors may include, for example, the fact that there has been significant medical intervention and/or permanent effects have resulted.  Examples may include cases where there is the need for a number of stitches (but not the superficial application of steri-strips) or a hospital procedure under anaesthetic.

Common assault

Legislation: Criminal Justice Act 1988 s 39

Racially aggravated common assault: Crime and Disorder Act 1998 s 29

Definition: Where a person intentionally or recklessly causes another to apprehend the immediate infliction of unlawful force.

Explanation: Common assault is charged where there are no injuries caused or the injuries caused are not serious.

Mode of trial: Summary only (basic offence) Triable either way (racially aggravated offence)

Maximum sentence: 26 weeks custody (basic offence) 2 years (racially aggravated offence)

Examples: Slaps, punches, kicks where the injuries caused are not serious. Physical contact such as pulling, grabbing or pushing may also constitute common assault.

CPS guidance: Although any injury that is more than ‘transient or trifling’ can be classified as actual bodily harm, the appropriate charge will be one of Common Assault where no injury or injuries which are not serious occur.