Grievous bodily harm is the most serious form of non-fatal assault as the injuries are deemed to cause serious detriment to a victim’s health. It can be committed in two ways affecting the level of severity of offence—the difference being whether the crime was committed intentionally or recklessly.
The following injuries are GBH:
- An injury resulting in permanent disability, loss of sensory function or visible disfigurement
- Broken bones, including a fractured skull, compound fractures, broken cheek bone, jaw and ribs
- Injuries that cause a substantial loss of blood
- Serious psychiatric injury
A defendant charged for GBH without intent does not necessarily mean that they inflicted less severe injuries to the victim. All the above injuries can be inflicted intentionally or recklessly, and this factor is what will ultimately determine the charge and punishment given.
It is not possible to attempt to commit a Section 20 GBH offence. If a defendant attempts to cause serious harm, it must be assumed that they intended to do so. To be charged for GBH without intent it is considered that the act was reckless. Under Section 20 GBH the defendant lacks the necessary mens rea for the more serious offence, meaning the defendant did not have the intention.
Seriously harming a victim without intent is a Section 20 Assault—a less serious form of GBH. Section 20 Assault, unlike Section 18 Assault (intentional), can be heard in both the Magistrates and Crown Courts albeit will normally be dealt with in the latter, and it carries a maximum sentence of five years.
What to do if you arrested for assault
If you are arrested by police for GBH, then your first step should be to seek immediate legal representation—as police begin building a case against you from the moment you are arrested. Even if you’ve had the Duty Solicitor at the Police Station, you can instruct Lawtons team of criminal defence solicitors in London, experts in this complex area of criminal law. We are available to represent accused individuals 24-hours a day to protect your rights and help you achieve a positive outcome, contact us to discuss your options and how we can help you to prepare the best case from the outset.