Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)
This is a criminal offence covered under sections 18 and 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act, with section 18 being the more serious offence.
In order for the offence of grievous bodily harm to have occurred there needs to be ‘really serious harm’ done. Examples of what would usually amount to really serious harm include:
• 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;
• Injuries which cause substantial loss of blood, usually necessitating a transfusion or result in lengthy treatment or incapacity;
• Serious psychiatric injury.
• Medical evidence will be required to prove the injury.
Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent
(Section 18 Offences Against The Person Act 1861)
To be found guilty of a section 18 GBH offence the defendant must have caused a serious injury and to have intended to cause serious injury. Section 18 assaults are always dealt with by the crown court and carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
(Section 20 Offences Against The Person Act 1861)
If the attacker only intended to cause ‘some harm or pain’ rather than ‘really serious bodily harm’, the offence is classed as a section 20 assault. Section 20 is a less serious offence than a section 18 GBH assault. A section 20 assault can be tried in either the magistrates’ court or the crown court but they would usually be heard in the crown court. The maximum sentence is 5 years imprisonment.
ABH is an offence under s47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. For an offence of ABH to be committed there must be an intention to assault someone combined with an injury such as bruising or bite marks. If the injury is minor an offence of assault by beating (common assault) would usually be charged instead.
A s47 assault can be tried in either the magistrates’ court or the crown court and carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment. The severity of the sentence will depend on a number of factors including the seriousness of the injury, whether a weapon was used, whether the assault was sustained and whether the offender has any history for violent offending.
Commonly referred to as common assault but actually two offences of assault and battery. When a person either assaults someone or commits battery they will be charged with a criminal offence under Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act. The offences are defined as follows:
assault occurs when a person makes another fear that immediate force will be used against them; no actual force needs to be applied, just a threatening gesture or demeanour (for example throat slitting gesture or shaking a fist)
battery is classified as the application of unlawful force (anything from a simple slap or shove)
A section 39 assault can only be tried in the magistrates’ court and carries a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment however the sentence is usually dealt with by a fine or a community penalty unless the assault involves characteristics which make the incident more serious or the offender has a history of violent behavior.
It is an offence under s89(1) Police Act 1996 to assault a police officer, provided that officer was acting lawfully at the time. An officer’s actions will be deemed to not be lawful if, for example, they had used excessive force in arresting them or restrained them without arrest. In such cases a charge of assault by beating (common assault) will usually be brought instead.
The courts view assaults on the police quite seriously and on conviction, an offender could face up to a maximum of 6 months in jail and/ or a fine.
Any person who resists or wilfully obstructs a police officer from conducting his or her duties commits an offence under s89(2) of the Police Act 1996. For the offence to be committed the officer must be acting in the execution of his duty.
Assault/Obstruct Court Security Officer
Under s57 Courts Act 2003 it is an offence to assault a court security officer or to resist or wilfully obstruct them. The officer must be acting lawfully at the time. If they were not then an offence of assault by beating (common assault) will usually be charged. The courts view these offences seriously and can impose a prison sentence of up to 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine.