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Grievous bodily harm versus actual bodily harm. A guide from our criminal solicitors

23 July 2021


In the UK there are many different types of assault and, as you can imagine, with each classification there are different definitions and sentences, and each type denotes a different level of severity. The most well-known types of assault in the UK are ‘actual bodily harm’ and ‘grievous bodily harm’, which we will touch on later.

While it is easy to assume that assault equates to physical violence or contact, there are many instances in which you can be arrested for assault without making physical contact.

Confused yet? Don’t worry!

At ABV Solicitors we have represented many people who have been charged with one or more of the following offences, and we have worked to ensure that they received a sentence that was befitting the act. We will always aim to be certain that your voice is heard in such instances and will endeavour to make sure that you receive the minimum sentence and that your legal rights are met at all times.

Now, to business; what are actual bodily harm (ABH) and grievous bodily harm (GBH) and how do they differ from regular assault? Our criminal solicitor provides the following guide below.

Defining GBH and ABH

Legal definitions can be tricky, so the following are jargon-free explanations of these offences from our criminal solicitor.

  • GBH – This is an assault that results in serious harm to another person’s body; for instance, if they have a permanent disability as the result of the injury, this counts as GBH. This can also account for psychiatric illness associated with an injury, such as depression or PTSD.
  • ABH – this is an assault that causes harm to another person’s body, whilst not on the level of GBH, this usually needs to be more serious than a shove or push to be classed as ABH.

Why are they different from other types of assault?

These differ from other kinds of assault, as the intentions of the perpetrator are explored and taken into account and the actual outcome is considered. Other assault types do not necessarily explore these avenues.

Are there different types of assault under UK law?

Yes, and there are many!

The most common ones are common assault (when someone feels that force will be used against them), but this can also include assault towards a police officer or member of the emergency services, which then makes it a more serious offence.

Can you get the sentences reduced?

At ABV Solicitors, our criminal solicitor will always work to have any charges and sentences reduced, hence why we recommend contacting us as soon as you are detained.

We will work with the police, other solicitors and court staff to get you the best deal possible, and will ensure all of the factors pertaining to the assault are considered and explored.

What are the maximum sentences for these offences?

For common assault (not involving those against a police officer or member of the emergency services) the maximum sentence is 6 months detainment.

For ABH, the maximum sentence time is 5 years and for GBH, it is also 5 years (with rare exceptions being longer).

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