Tag Archives: grievous bodily harm

Grievous Bodily Harm and Wounding, with and without intent

In legal shorthand we often refer to section 18 or 20 offences.  These refer to specific offences under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.  They are offences that involve allegations of serious violence causing either Grievous Bodily Harm or Wounding.

What is the difference between section 18 and section 20?

grievous bodily harmThe most serious form of assault, short of attempt murder, is an offence under Section 18 Offences Against the Person Act 1861.  This involves the causing of either Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) or Wounding intending to cause such a serious injury.

An offence involving intent under section 18 carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.  The same offence committed without intent under section 20 has a maximum sentence of only five years.

As a result, the offence can be committed in different ways:

  • wounding with intent
  • causing GBH with intent
  • wounding without intent
  • causing GBH without intent

‘Unlawfully and Maliciously’

For an offence to be committed unlawfully and maliciously it means that there is no defence such as self-defence, force used for preventing crime or the defence of property or another.

There are also some other technical differences between the two offences.

What is Grievous Bodily Harm?

 GBH or grievous bodily harm is really serious bodily harm.  It will include include broken limbs for example but can also include psychiatric injury.

What is wounding?

Wounding is where the skin is broken, either internally or externally.

Section 18 – the intent offence

 For the more serious offence intent to cause serious injury or wounding is required.

A jury needs to be satisfied that the offender intended to cause the harm.  They will do so by considering all of the relevant circumstances, including what the offender did and what he said about it.

What about weapons?

 The use of a weapon will make any offence more serious. Weapons include knives and bottles, or throwing acid.  Where feet are used to kick somebody they are treated as a weapon.  Biting will also be an aggravating feature in any case.

grievous bodily harm

Section 20, the offence without intent

In such a case it is accepted that there was no intention to cause the injury.  For example this might be the case involving a single punch that causes a person to fall backwards leading to a serious injury or wound.

A jury will be helped to decided on this issue by looking at  evidence of the manner in which the assault was carried out or your behaviour at the time and afterwards.

What sentence will I get?

 For an offence committed with intent it is almost inevitable that a term of imprisonment will be imposed. The guidelines range from 3 years for a less serious offence through to 16 years for the more serious offences.

Examples of sentences imposed are:

  • nine years when a bottle was used to strike the face requiring thirty stitches
  • nine years also imposed for causing a fractured arm with a baseball bat, knocking down and driving over a police officer, kicks to the head on the floor causing extensive facial fractures.

For offences under section 20 the maximum sentence is 5 years, so a non-custodial sentence is more likely. The guidelines range from a community order to 4 years imprisonment.

grievous bodily harm

Instruct an expert criminal law solicitor to represent you

The difference in sentencing for the absence of intent means that this issue has to be considered carefully in the context of all of the evidence.

We can advise you whether intent and other offence elements can be proven, and the prospects, if appropriate, of a plea to the lesser offence being acceptable to the prosecution and the court.

The law is complicated and the potential consequences of a prosecution severe.

As a result, if you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about an offence relating to grievous bodily harm or wounding then make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.

The advantages of such early legal advice can be found here.

If you have already been interviewed or face court proceedings we can still make a real difference to the outcome of your case.  Legal aid may well be available to fund your defence at court.

 You can find your nearest office here.

grievous bodily harm
VHS Fletchers offices across the East Midlands

Alternatively you can use the contact form below:


Suspended sentence for Grievous Bodily Harm at Chesterfield

suspended sentence grievous bodily harm chesterfield
Chesterfield crime solicitor David Gittins

Chesterfield Crime Solicitor David Gittins recently represented a young man before Chesterfield Magistrates Court. His client had been charged with the serious offence of section 20 Grievous Bodily Harm or GBH.  It was alleged he had broken the jaw of the complainant.

The sentencing guidelines mean that such an offence will regularly carry a custodial sentence upon conviction.  Furthermore, such cases will often be dealt with before the Crown Court.

In this case, David gave careful consideration to the guidelines and the facts.  As a result he was able to convince the court not only to keep the case but also to impose an alternative to immediate custody.

Free police station advice and representation

Experienced Police Station Representative Rob Lowe first attended Chesterfield Police station with our client.  This was some months before the matter finally came before the court.

Chesterfield Police Station Representative Rob Lowe

Rob was able to provide free legal advice following arrest for grievous bodily harm. This was under the legal aid scheme.  Such advice is not means tested so as a result will always be free of charge.

Having a legal representative in the police station is always important.  Rob was able to secure information from the police about the incident.  As a result the client knew in advance what the allegation was.  Rob took our client’s instructions. He was then able to advise on the strength of the evidence.

The evidence was very strong  as our client was named as the aggressor. Our client accepted that he was guilty of the offence.  He then had a decision to make as to whether he would answer police questions or not.

Rob was able to explain that there is often something to be gained by answering police questions even where a person will accept guilt at court.  In this case it was important that our client explain at the outset why he had acted as he did.  It was an early opportunity for him to say how sorry he felt.  This would help him gain maximum credit on sentence when the case reached court.

Late service of CCTV evidence (again)

When the matter was eventually charged David took over the management of the case to prepared the case for court.  Although the entire incident was covered by CCTV this was not available until the day the case was first in court.

The footage was clear and showed our client punching the victim once to the face.  He was knocked to the ground. Sadly the victim was left with a fractured jaw that needed surgery.  The Prosecution was to argue that the case should be allocated to the Crown Court as the Magistrates’ sentencing powers were insufficient.

Representations on mode of trial and allocation

David was able to argue against that, relying on a number of factors:

  • The CCTV footage showed his client breaking up a fight immediately before he threw the punch
  • he walked off straight away
  • there was a single punch so no follow up
  • he was of good character
  • he was only 18 at the time of the incident
  • his early admission of guilty

The Magistrates were taken through the relevant sentencing guidelines in detail.  As a result, despite prosecution representations, the Magistrates agreed the case could remain in their court.  The case was adjourned in order that a pre-sentence could be obtained from the probation service.

Suspended sentence for Grievous Bodily Harm

When the matter returned to Court a week later the Probation service had prepared a report.  Although prison remained an option, the report concluded that our client’s risk could be managed outside the prison system. As a result, any punishment could properly be within the community.

David’s powerful and reasoned mitigation led to his client receiving a twelve week sentence of imprisonment.  This sentence would be suspended.  This was combined with community elements and compensation.

As a result our client was understandably delighted.  He realised just how close he had come to receiving an immediate prison sentence.

Contact a Chesterfield Criminal Defence Specialist

Without condoning violence, the outcome shows that with the right preparation a court can be persuaded to sentence on the basis of single mistake that will never be repeated.  There is often flexibility within the guidelines to permit a sentence that properly reflects the mitigation available to a client.

However, you will only be able to secure the best result for you in the circumstances if you choose your legal representatives carefully.

If you face a police investigation or court proceedings for an offence such as Grievous Bodily Harm then you can contact David or Rob at our Chesterfield office on 01246 283000.  Alternatively you can use the form below to email your enquiry to us.