Have you been accused of Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) or Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)?

You must seek expert legal advice at the earliest stage. In doing so, you will be in the best position to secure appropriate representation.

Assault is a complex offence and is classified with varying degrees of severity. ABH and GBH have differing convictions and sentences. The Criminal Justice Act 1988, states that ABH and GBH are determined by:

  1. The level of foresight
  2. The motivation for the offence
  3. Any injuries inflicted

 

What is GBH?

GBH is the most serious assault as the injuries are deemed to cause serious detriment to a victim’s health, whether:

  • Physically – through wounding
  • Biologically – through the transmission of disease
  • Psychologically – if fear or paranoia are caused by the incident which results in a clinical condition like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The offence is classified under Sections 18 and 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (OAPA). Section 18 GBH is the more serious of the two types of GBH. In a Section 18 case the prosecution must prove that the accused intentionally inflicted grievous bodily harm and intended to do so.

GBH can be committed in two ways, which reflects the two offences, either intentionally or recklessly (Section 20) and may be classified by a number of factors, including:

  • Any injuries caused by the assault will be regarded as severely detrimental to a victim’s health
  • The law distinguishes between intentional GBH and reckless GBH, with the former being a more serious offence as outlined above
  • Sentence ranges for GBH are broad. Ranging from community orders to life imprisonment, the sentence will depend on the level of injuries and the final charge

 

What is the sentence for GBH?

GBH is the most serious form of assault and as such, the sentences reflect this. If GBH is committed intentionally, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. If the assault involves the use of a weapon, the offence will consequently require a more serious sentence, and will often be charged as a Section 18 case as the assault will be considered intentional. 

Seriously harming a victim recklessly or maliciously but without intent is classified as a Section 20 Assault – a less serious form of GBH.  

A conviction under Section 20 could sanction a maximum custodial sentence of 5 years, whilst under Section 18 the maximum could be a life sentence. Usually sentences for GBH range from 3 to 16 years in prison, but this depends wholly on the facts of the individual case. For Section 20 cases, depending on the injuries and factors involved, the court will sometimes consider imposing non-custodial sentences.

 

What is ABH?

ABH is a criminal offence contrary to section 47 of the OAPA. Classified as less serious than GBH, ABH can be classified by:

  • Injuries that are less severe than in GBH cases, but must still be of provable detriment to the victim’s health
  • The offence can be committed recklessly or intentionally, much like GBH. The intention need only be to apply unlawful force
  • Sentences can range from community orders to up to 3 years’ imprisonment

As with GBH, ABH can be committed either intentionally or recklessly. The intention needn’t be to injure the individual, only to apply unlawful force to another.

ABH can be tried at either the magistrates’ court or the Crown Court. The location will depend on the circumstances and aggravating factors involved in the case.

Sentencing for ABH is less severe than GBH and will range from a community order to a maximum penalty of 3 years’ imprisonment in the most severe cases – which are heard by the Crown Court. A prison sentence is more likely to be given if the assault is not a first-time offence.

 

What to do if you are accused of ABH or GBH

Whilst many will try to claim self-defence, this is a highly specialist aspect of any case and requires a careful consideration of the circumstances. Provocation is not a defence to any allegation of ABH and GBH, but every one of the self-defence cases heard each year will have their own unique characteristics and occurrences.

Appointing an expert within this aspect of law will ensure you are best served to reduce any potential penalties that could occur in the worst-case scenario.

Even if you’ve consulted the duty solicitor at the police station, you can instruct a criminal defence solicitor from Lawtons to assist you. We are available to represent accused individuals 24 hours a day to protect your rights and help you achieve a positive outcome in your case.

 

Useful links

 

Q&As

 

What is the minimum sentence for GBH?

GBH sentencing rarely results in financial penalties alone, the minimum sentence is typically community based sentences with probation or suspended prison sentences, even for first time offences. Wounding without intent carries a maximum five year sentence.

 

Which one is worse, ABH or GBH?

GBH is worse than ABH. GBH is used to describe the severest forms of assault. ABH is considered a less serious offence than GBH.

 

Is a broken bone ABH or GBH?

Typically it is GBH. GBH means causing serious injuries which severely affect the health of the victim, such as broken bones. Minor breaks eg. to the nose, would normally be charged as ABH.