What is a Section 18 assault?

What is Section 18 Assault?

Under the umbrella term of Grievous Bodily Harm, there are actually two separate offences: Section 18 Assault and Section 20 Assault. Legislation surrounding the definition of these terms, as well as regulations for the trial and conviction of any person suspected of these particular crimes, was laid out in the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

Grievous Bodily Harm, or GBH, can be defined as the purposeful causing of serious injury to another person. If a person’s skin is broken, Unlawful Wounding could also be considered to have taken place. In terms of whether an injury is considered “serious” or not, there is no real criteria laid out in law; it’s usually up to a jury to decide the severity of the individual’s suffering, and whether it should be labelled GBH or ABH (Actual Bodily Harm), a slightly lesser offence.

Section 18 Assault is an offence described as either “wounding with intent” or “causing grievous bodily harm with intent” and is the most serious form of assault (save for murder and manslaughter) that can be committed, while accusing a person of Section 20 Assault means that the intent behind the wounding or bodily harm committed went no further.

To be facing a charge of Section 18 Assault, a defendant may have:

  • Launched a repeat or planned attack
  • Deliberately selected of weapons or adapted an article to cause injury (such as breaking a glass before an attack)
  • Made prior threats
  • Used an offensive weapon against a victim’s head
  • Kicked a victim’s head

What are the Punishments for Section 18 Assault?

The maximum sentence for section 18 assault is life imprisonment For Section 20, on the other hand, the maximum sentence is 5 years imprisonment.


If the offence in question was particularly violent, or it is believed that the suspect is at risk of offending again, it is possible for a person accused of GBH – particularly Section 18 Assault – to be refused bail. If bail is granted, by the police or court it may be subject to conditions eg. Not to contact a person or approach a place.

What Should You Do If You Have Been Accused

It’s vital that you make contact with an experienced criminal lawyer to help mount your defence, and, with their assistance, begin to collect evidence – including phone footage, text messages, CCTV and witness statements – to prove your innocence.

A recent and unusual case in which a defendant was found guilty of assault, unlawful wounding and GBH is that of body modification artist “Dr Evil”, also known as Brendan McCarthy from Wolverhampton, who sought the consent of his clients to perform extreme procedures without anaesthetic but was still ruled to have acted unlawfully, as it was successfully argued that the law should take steps to protect the “personal anatomy” of members of the general public, and that McCarthy should not have been performing “significant surgical procedures” without the relevant licence.

How to Get Section 18 Reduced to Section 20 Assault

If you have sufficient evidence to prove that you did not intend to cause serious harm during the incident that led to your being charged with assault, you may be able have the offence in question changed to Section 20 Assault rather than Section 18. It is vital that you contact us in order to assist you.

How DPP Law Can Assist if You’ve Been Charged with Section 18 Assault

Contact DPP Law today if you or someone you know has been accused of Section 18 Assault. We’ll examine all evidence collected both by yourself and the prosecution, and go through the details of the alleged offence thoroughly and diligently – building a strong defence that will enable us to either argue your innocence or prove that no harm was intended during the incident in question.

Call our specialist team now on 0333 200 5859 or fill in our contact form and we’ll get back to you straight away.