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This can be a very complex area of law, with GBH and ABH (and common assault) carrying different levels of seriousness and sentencing. The level of injury the victim has suffered is the most important deciding factor when it comes to determining whether the offence is ABH or GBH. In this article our expert GBH and ABH solicitors provide further detail.
Defences for assaults such as GBH and ABH include consent, accident, self-defence and lawful sport. However, not all defences apply to every type of assault, so it is vital to seek legal advice about which defence could be available in your circumstances.
GBH and ABH can both be committed either intentionally or recklessly. In the case of ABH, the victim’s injuries will be less severe than those in the case of GBH. However, these injuries must still be detrimental to the victim’s health.
GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm) and ABH (Actual Bodily Harm) both fall under the umbrella of assault.
This can be a very complex area of law, with GBH and ABH (and common assault) carrying different levels of seriousness and sentencing.
The Criminal Justice Act 1988 states that both GBH and ABH are criminal offences.
Both GBH and ABH can result in a prison sentence, if you are found guilty.
GBH and ABH are determined by:
The level of injury the victim has suffered is the most important deciding factor when it comes to determining whether the offence is ABH or GBH.
In the case of GBH, the injuries will have caused serious detriment to the victim’s health.
The injuries in question can be physical, biological (disease transmission) or psychological (such as the incident resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder).
There are two types of GBH, as defined in the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 in Sections 18 and 20: with intent or without intent. Intent is determined by looking at the accused’s motives or desire.
In the case of Section 18 GBH, the prosecution must prove that the person accused of the offence intentionally inflicted grievous bodily harm. For a Section 20 GBH, the accused may have recklessly or maliciously done so, but without intent.
Section 18 – inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent – is a more serious offence.
In fact, GBH and ABH can both be committed either intentionally or recklessly. In the case of ABH, the victim’s injuries will be less severe than those in the case of GBH. However, these injuries must still be detrimental to the victim’s health.
The intention for GBH and ABH only needs to be to apply unlawful force (more on this below).
Due to the injuries for ABH being less serious than those for GBH, ABH is regarded as a less serious offence than GBH.
Normally, it will be the police or the CPS who will decide whether or not an injury is severe. They will use legal guidelines to determine this.
GBH injuries must have caused serious detriment to a victim’s health.
ABH injuries are less severe than those in GBH cases, but they must still be of provable detriment to the victim’s health.
Yes, both GBH and ABH can be committed recklessly or intentionally.
Having an intention to injure the victim is not necessary. The accused may simply have an intention to apply unlawful force.
For example, imagine you are at a restaurant and you get into an argument with someone for being too noisy at a nearby table. Things escalate and you push them. They fall and hit their head on the hard, tiled floor.
Imagine the victim is bruised due to the fall. Even though you may not have intended to injure the victim, you could be charged with ABH. Arguably, you could have caused the injury intentionally (you may not have intended to injure, but you may have intended to apply unlawful force) or recklessly. As long as the injury was not serious, you would be charged with ABH.
If your push had caused the person’s skull to fracture, this would fall into the more serious GBH offence category. As you had not intended for your actions to seriously injure the victim (assuming this is the case), this may be charged as per Section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act (GBH without intent).
As you can see, GBH and ABH offences both have similarities and it is the injury which is the determining factor when deciding which offence to charge the perpetrator with.
GBH and ABH have different prison sentences, which reflect the differing severity of the injuries caused by each offence. Depending on the circumstances of the case, there may be no prison sentence at all.
If you are convicted of ABH, you may get anything from a community order to a 5-year prison sentence. If there are aggravating factors (the offence was religiously or racially motivated), you may face up to 7 years in custody. If it is a first offence, a prison sentence may be less likely.
Sentencing for GBH without intent (Section 20) can range from a community order to 5 years in prison (more if it is racially or religiously aggravated). For GBH with intent, the maximum prison sentence if found guilty is life in prison.
Normally, prison sentences for GBH convictions range from around 3 to 16 years.
If a weapon is used in an assault, this could result in the assault being charged as a more serious Section 18 offence.
ABH cases are heard in either a Crown Court or a Magistrates’ Court, depending on the seriousness of the case and whether there are any aggravating factors.
GBH without intent (Section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act) can be heard at the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court, whereas GBH with intent (Section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act) is heard in the Crown Court.
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GBH and ABH are both serious criminal offences. However, out of GBH and ABH, ABH is regarded as the less serious offence, due to the injuries required for ABH being less severe than those involved in GBH cases.
Defences for assaults such as GBH and ABH include consent, accident, self-defence and lawful sport.
However, not all defences apply to every type of assault, so it is vital to seek legal advice about which defence could be available in your circumstances.
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