What is the difference between Assault, Battery, ABH and GBH?

Whether you have been directly involved in a serious case of assault and battery, or you know someone who has, you may be familiar with the terminology to classify different serious crimes.

These can become extremely important to defining exactly how serious the crime is, as well as the severity of the eventual sentence handed down to the perpetrator.

Below we have outlined the difference between Assault, Battery, ABH and GBH to make it clear what each term refers to. This will help to understand exactly how each crime is viewed in the eyes of the law and what it could potentially mean for the perpetrator when it comes to sentencing.

What is the difference between Assault and Battery?

A common mistake when it comes to assault and battery is that assault refers to the violent act of a person hitting or striking someone else, while battery refers to threatening behaviour.

In fact, it is the complete opposite in the eyes of the law as confusingly, assault refers to the threat of violence while battery is the physical contact between the perpetrator and the victim.

Below are a few examples of each so the difference is clear:

  • Assault – shaking a fist, racist remarks or crude gestures
  • Battery – physical attack such as a slap, punch or using a weapon to hurt someone

In this regard, assault is usually defined by inciting fear or purposefully aggravating a stranger whilst battery is the physical touching of another person against their permission in a provocative or even violent way.

There are a few mitigating factors such as self-defence, defence of property and the prevention of crime, but usually, the penalty for assault can range from a fine to a short time in prison.

Battery, on the other hand, is a lot more serious and depending on the severity of the attack can often land the perpetrator with a lengthy jail sentence.

Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)

Whilst battery describes the event of one person touching another, there are also varying levels of battery that describe how severe the attack was between perpetrator and victim.

The first level up from assault and battery according to UK law is Actual Bodily Harm or ABH. The most common form of ABH is a scratch, bruise or even a bite mark.

It may also be classified as ABH if the victim has been pushed and ends up banging their head or receiving a scratch when falling on the floor.

Also known as a section 47 offence, ABH carries a maximum sentence of 5 years, though is more commonly dealt with by giving the perpetrator a fine or community order.

However, every case is handled separately as an attack might be racially motivated or could be linked to other crimes the perpetrator is guilty of.

Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)

Going further, if the attack is particularly violent, premeditated or involves a weapon such as a knife, the attack would be classified as Grievous Bodily Harm or GBH instead.

As with assault and battery, the punishment handed down depends entirely on the circumstances and how severe the injuries are sustained by the victim.

It is also judged whether the perpetrator intended to attack the victim or whether the attack was self-defence or even an accident while involved in a scuffle with many other people.

A section 20 offence is usually the lighter offence and concludes the attack was not intentional, with a maximum sentence of five years. However, a section 18 offence of GBH would be an intentional crime that causes severe injuries but not death.

This can carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment as the injuries can often be life-changing for the victim.

If you would like any further information about assault and battery, or would like to book a free consultation to speak to our team of expert solicitors, get in touch with DPP Law today.