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What is GBH with and without intent?

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Grievous bodily harm (GBH) is a very serious criminal offence. Anyone who is convicted can expect to face significant penalties, regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

What many people do not realise is that there are two different GBH offences someone can be convicted for, these being GBH with intent and GBH without intent. While the two offences are broadly similar, there are certain differences that distinguish them. The potential sentences for both offences also vary.

In this post, we discuss what the difference between GBH with and without intent is, what the sentences for both offences are, and what you should do if you are facing a conviction.

What is classed as GBH?

GBH is defined as ‘really serious’ bodily harm that is caused by a physical assault. It could include injuries where a victim is caused permanent disability, loss of sensory functions, disfigurement, broken bones, substantial blood loss or psychiatric injury. GBH is the most serious form of assault short of attempted murder.

If a GBH case proceeds to court, it is up to the jury to determine whether the injuries caused fall under the bracket of ‘really serious’.

Specific actions or offences that involve GBH include:

  • Causing GBH with intent or wounding with intent, or wounding with intent to cause GBH (Section 18, Offences Against the Person Act 1861).
  • Causing GBH or wounding where intent cannot be proven (Section 20, Offences Against the Person Act).
  • Attempting to cause GBH.

What is the difference between GBH with and without intent?

As above, there are two types of GBH that someone could be charged with: GBH with intent and GBH without intent (GBH where intent cannot be proven).

These two offences fall under two separate sections of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Causing GBH with intent falls under Section 18 and causing GBH without intent falls under Section 20.

The difference between the two centres around the evidence (or lack thereof) of intent in an offender’s actions. For intent to be applied, it must be demonstrated that the offender deliberately caused severe injuries and intended to do so.

There are a number of factors which could indicate that there was intent. For example, evidence of planning, the choice of offensive weapon, repeated assault and excessive force could also indicate that someone intended to cause GBH.

How serious is GBH with and without intent?

Both GBH with and without intent are serious offences. This is due to the nature of the injuries the victim will have suffered.

While GBH with intent is considered to be the more serious of the two offences, both carry heavy penalties.

What is the sentence for GBH with and without intent?

As you can expect, sentencing guidelines for causing GBH with intent are much harsher than sentencing for GBH without intent.

Causing grievous bodily harm with intent to do grievous bodily harm and wounding with intent to do GBH carry a standard sentencing range of 2–16 years’ custody with a maximum possible sentence of life imprisonment for the most serious offences.

By way of contrast, causing GBH without intent has a sentence range of a community order through to four to six months’ custody. The maximum sentence you could face for causing GBH without intent would be five years’ imprisonment.

If the offence is a racially or religiously aggravated (s.20 offence), the maximum sentence is 7 years custody.

How are GBH sentences determined?

GBH sentences are determined by two factors: culpability and harm.

Culpability is divided into three categories:

  • A – High culpability
  • B – Medium culpability
  • C – Lesser culpability

The higher the perceived culpability for an offence, the more serious the penalty upon conviction will be.

Harm is also split into three categories:

  • Category 1
  • Category 2
  • Category 3

Category 1 harm is the most serious and Category 3 harm is the least serious.

More information regarding sentencing guidelines for GBH can be found at the Sentencing Council website.

Is it still GBH if you had to act in self-defence?

There may be a scenario where you cause injuries to another person while acting in self-defence, or were defending someone else from an attack. The law states that you are allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to defend yourself or another person.

This does create somewhat of a grey area. The decision as to whether your actions amount to self-defence, or would be GBH with or without intent, would depend on whether it is decided that ‘reasonable’ force was used.

In scenarios of GBH without intent involving self-defence, the advice and guidance of an experienced criminal defence solicitor can prove invaluable.

Is GBH different to ABH?

GBH and actual bodily harm (ABH) are two different offences. They differ both in terms of the actions that constitute the offence and the relevant penalties.

ABH is an assault that causes harm to a person’s body, with injuries being more serious than battery, but less serious than GBH. ABH is where someone intends to use ‘unlawful force’ rather than to cause direct injury.

A good example of ABH would be if you push someone, and they fall and hit their head. The intention was to use unlawful force, not to cause the head injury. ABH can also be caused on a reckless basis.

Could I go to prison for a first time GBH offence?

Whether or not you go to prison for a GBH first offence will heavily depend on the surrounding circumstances, including whether or not there was intent behind your actions.

GBH with intent first offences do carry a strong potential for custody, as there was likely to have been a high level of both culpability and harm. However, a first-time offence for GBH without intent may be different. If intent cannot be demonstrated, it is possible that a fine or community order will be imposed however a fine would be exceptional.

What evidence could prove that GBH with intent took place?

Proving that there was intent for a GBH case will depend on various pieces of evidence, such as:

  • CCTV footage
  • Eye-witness accounts
  • An offensive weapon
  • Evidence of prior threats (e.g. text messages or phone calls)
  • Forensic evidence (such as finger prints on an offensive weapon)

Do I need a solicitor if I have been accused of GBH with or without intent?

If you have been arrested on suspicion of causing GBH, with or without intent, and are interviewed by the police, it is imperative that you seek the advice of an expert criminal defence solicitor at the earliest opportunity. As we have discussed, both GBH with intent and GBH without intent are serious offences which carry heavy penalties for anyone who is convicted.

If accused, you will need to have a detailed understanding of what your case involves, where you stand, your legal rights and what actions could ultimately undermine your criminal defence.

From our experience, many people are hesitant to speak to a criminal solicitor, even for offences as serious as GBH with and without intent. This is often because there is an underlying assumption that speaking to a solicitor, or receiving any type of legal support, will signify guilt in some way.

This is not at all accurate. No matter what your circumstances might be, and the sort of charges you could be facing, speaking to a solicitor when accused of GBH could prove the difference when it comes to avoiding charges, or reducing a sentence where conviction proves unavoidable.

At JD Spicer Zeb, our criminal defence solicitors have substantial experience and expertise in defending individuals accused of GBH with and without intent. We are well positioned to advise on the various defence strategies that can be used for both Section 18 GBH with intent cases and Section 20 GBH without intent cases.

Contact our criminal defence lawyers today

For a free initial consultation, urgent specialist advice, immediate representation, or to speak to us confidentially about allegations of GBH with and without intent, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team today.

You can contact our dedicated grievous bodily harm solicitors in London, Birmingham, and Manchester by telephone on:

Or email: solicitors@jdspicer.co.uk

Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

24/7 legal representation for GBH with and without intent allegations

Please get in touch for a free initial consultation with one of our expert criminal defence solicitors, as well as immediate representation and advice on dealing with allegations relating to GBH with and without intent.

We are available to represent clients all over England and Wales at any time, so please contact our Emergency Number 07836 577 556.

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