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Assault, ABH & GBH

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With the penalties for assault ranging from fines to life imprisonment and anything in between, you need to ensure that you are properly represented – from your initial interview at the police station right through to the Crown Court and, if necessary, the Court of Appeal.

DPP Law is a top 10 supplier of Criminal Defence Services. Our team has the experience and skill to examine all the available evidence and will work alongside you to build a strong defence against any assault charges, including those of section 18 assault.

“Assault” is an umbrella term referring to a wide variety of different offences involving threats or acts of violence against another individual. Many of the actions listed as part of this group are likely to result in severe penalties, so it’s very important to seek legal representation if you are accused of assault, actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm or any related offences.

Implications of Assault Offences

If you have been accused of assault, this means that you are suspected of inflicting physical harm, or threatening to inflict physical harm, against another individual. There are three general “levels” of assault – Common Assault, ABH and GBH.

Punishment for Common Assault (or Section 39 Common Assault)

The first tier does not even require an individual to make contact with another – aggressive or threatening gestures or vocal threats of physical harm may be enough to see a person arrested for Common Assault. Other behaviours in this category may include spitting, punching, pushing, shoving, poking or offensive contact.

There are three categories of Common Assault, with category 1 being the most serious and category 3 being the least. Common Assault sentencing guidelines state that the maximum sentence for category 1 Common Assault is 26 months in prison, while those found guilty of category 3 Common Assault are usually served with a fine.

Punishment for Actual Bodily Harm (ABH, or Section 47 Assault)

If a person commits a violent act against another that results in minor cuts or other injuries, such as a punch or a scratch, they may be arrested for Actual Bodily Harm. Kicking while wearing shoes, headbutting or pushing a person heavily against a wall may also constitute ABH. Proof of the pre-planning of an attack or other aggravating factors may lead to a charge of premeditated ABH or ABH with intent.

The maximum sentence for ABH is five years in custody.

Punishment for Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH, Section 18 Assault or Section 20 Assault)

The difference between GBH and ABH, and the reason why the latter is so much more severely punished, is the seriousness of the resulting injuries and the presence of a weapon. If a weapon is used in an assault, such as a knife or a broken bottle, an assault is far more likely to be considered GBH than ABH, even if an individual is injured by just one strike. An attack causing serious injuries will probably lead to a charge of GBH, as will the purposeful or reckless passing on of a sexually transmitted disease.

GBH can be broken down into Section 18 Assault – or wounding with intent – and Section 20 Assault – or wounding without intent.

The maximum sentence for GBH that can be defined as Section 20 Assault is 5 years in prison, while the maximum sentence for GBH in the category of Section 18 Assault is life in prison.

In all three areas, if language, gestures, or any other element of the offence suggests that the assault was pre-planned or racially or religiously motivated, this will be considered an aggravating factor and the punishment handed down is likely to be more severe.

Related Offences

You may be found guilty of assault if it can be proven that you have committed any of the following acts:

  • Common assault
  • Battery
  • Aggravated common assault
  • Racially or religiously aggravated common assault
  • Actual bodily harm (ABH)
  • Premeditated ABH
  • Actual bodily harm with intent
  • Unlawful wounding
  • Grievous Bodily harm (GBH)
  • Racially or religiously aggravated GBH
  • Single-blow GBH
  • Premeditated GBH / GBH with intent

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is worse – ABH or GBH?

GBH is considered the more severe offence, as the actions that are covered by this particular term are ones that result in wounding, broken bones or other serious injury. This is reflected in the possible penalties, which state that GBH is punishable by sentences up to life in prison, while the maximum sentence for ABH is a 5 year custodial term.

What is the difference between GBH and ABH?

The difference between GBH and ABH is as follows: the term ABH refers to an assault that results in minor injuries such as small cuts, bruises or scratches, while an act of GBH may render a person more seriously wounded, with deeper lacerations, broken bones, concussion or other injuries that will more profoundly affect the victim’s life.

How long can the police hold you for assault?

A person can only be kept in custody without charge for up to 24 hours, unless a senior police officer gives permission for an extension of another 12 hours. After that, a magistrate can give authority for another 96 hours of detention if necessary. If the suspect is being held under the Terrorism Act, officers are automatically permitted to hold them for up to 14 days.

What is the punishment for assault?

Common assault sentencing guidelines state that the maximum sentence for this particular crime is 26 months in prison. If a person is found guilty of ABH, they may face anything up to a 5 year custodial term, while perpetrators of GBH may be sentenced to life in prison depending on the circumstances of their offence.

Contact the criminal defence solicitors at DPP Law immediately if you have been accused of any form of assault or arrested after being involved in any kind of violent encounter. We’ll be there to support and advise you from your arrest right through to your appearance in court, and we’ll provide you with the best possible defence.

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