What are the Sentencing Guidelines for GBH?

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What are the Sentencing Guidelines for GBH?

When charged with GBH, it is a very serious matter that can carry significant penalties if found guilty. A criminal defence solicitor, particularly one specialising in GBH cases, can be instrumental in helping to navigate this difficult situation.

What is GBH?

GBH, or grievous bodily harm, is classified as “really serious” bodily harm resulting from an assault against a victim. It can include injuries where a victim has been permanently disabled, suffered loss of sensory function, disfigurement, broken bones, substantial loss of blood, or serious psychiatric injury. The most severe form of assault, short of attempted murder, GBH, can be caused with intent or without, and the penalties vary depending on the circumstances.

What is the difference between GBH and ABH?

GBH solicitors will also be able to help navigate the differences between GBH and ABH (actual bodily harm). 

The offence is committed when a person either intentionally or recklessly assaults another and “occasioned” or caused the bodily harm. Bodily harm is defined as any hurt which interferes with the health or comfort of the victim. It must be more than trifling or momentary but does not need to be permanent. For example if an offender punches a victim and causes a black eye, then it is likely that the offence would be investigated as an ABH, if however the assault caused permanent damage to the eye it is more likely to be treated as a GBH offence.

What actions are classed as GBH?

In addition to understanding the differences between GBH and ABH, it is also important to understand what actions are classed as GBH. Specific actions or offences involving 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 Section 18 and 20 GBH? 

Section 18 GBH is the most severe non-lethal assault offence, where the perpetrator intentionally causes serious bodily harm or wounds with intent to cause GBH. Section 20 GBH is a less serious offence where the perpetrator injures or wounds another person and intended to cause some harm but not grievous harm, or was reckless as to the harm that was caused

What is GBH with intent?

For this offence it must be proved, both that GBH was caused and also that it was intended to be caused. For example if you push a person and they fall, hit their head and it results in a fractured skull. GBH has clearly been caused but the prosecution would need to prove that the offender intended that the serious would be caused. On the other hand if an offender uses a knife to deliberately stab a victim, it would be much simpler for the prosecution to prove that the serious injury was intended. In addition to weapons, factors that may also indicate intent include evidence of planning, previous threats or repeated assault.

Sentencing differences between with or without intent

Sentencing for GBH (section 20)  has a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment. 

In contrast  for section 18 offences where intent is demonstrated, such as with GBH with intent or wounding with intent to cause GBH, the maximum sentence is  life imprisonment.

Sentencing guidelines for GBH suggest that the average sentence for the offence of GBH with intent would be anywhere from between 3 years and 16 years, depending on how serious the offence is considered to be and the court’s determination on the culpability of the offender and harm caused.

To understand the potential penalties and build a strong defence, working with criminal defence solicitors with experience in GBH cases is important. GBH solicitors can advise on the best course of action.

Determining GBH Penalties 

The penalties for GBH are determined based on culpability and harm involved, with the severity of the sentence varying depending on the circumstances of the offence; these have been detailed below.

Culpability is divided into three categories:

A – High culpability

B – Medium culpability

C – Lesser culpability

Where is it decided that A – High culpability applies, the following factors will be present:

  • Significant degree of planning or premeditation
  • Leading role in group activity
  • Victim obviously vulnerable due to age, personal characteristics or circumstances
  • Prolonged/persistent assault
  • Use of a highly dangerous weapon or weapon equivalent
  • Strangulation/suffocation/asphyxiation
  • Revenge

Where it is decided that B – Medium culpability applies, the following factors will be present:

  • Use of a weapon or weapon equivalent which does not fall within category A
  • Lesser role in group activity
  • Cases falling between category high and low culpability because:
  • Factors in both high and lesser categories are present which balance each other out; and/or
  • The offender’s culpability falls between the factors as described in high and lesser culpability

Where it is decided that C – Lesser culpability applies, the following factors will be present:

  • No weapon used
  • Excessive self-defence
  • Impulsive/spontaneous and short-lived assault
  • Mental disorder or learning disability which is  linked to the commission of the offence

Harm is also divided into three categories:

  • Category 1
  • Category 2
  • Category 3

Where Category 1 harm applies, the following is present:

  • Particularly grave and/or life-threatening injury caused
  • Injury results in physical or psychological harm resulting in lifelong dependency on third-party care or medical treatment
  • Offence results in a permanent, irreversible injury or condition which has a substantial and long-term effect on the victim’s ability to carry out their normal day to day activities or on their ability to work.

Where Category 2 harm applies, the following is present:

  • Grave injury
  • Offence results in a permanent, irreversible injury or condition not falling within category 1

Where Category 3 harm applies, the following is present:

  • All other cases of really serious harm
  • All other cases of wounding

Mitigating factors for GBH

  • No previous convictions or no relevant/recent convictions
  • Remorse
  • Good character and/or exemplary conduct
  • Significant degree of provocation
  • Sole or primary care for dependent relative(s)
  • Determination and/or demonstration of steps taken to address addiction or offending behaviour
  • Serious medical conditions requiring urgent, intensive or long-term treatment
  • History of significant violence or abuse towards the offender by the victim (where not taken into account at step one)
  • Age and/or lack of maturity
  • Mental disorder or learning disability, where not linked to the commission of the offence

Aggravating Factors for GBH

  • Previous convictions, having regard to a) the nature of the offence to which the conviction relates and its relevance to the current offence; and b) the time that has elapsed since the conviction
  • Offence committed whilst on bail
  • Offence motivated by, or demonstrating hostility based on any of the following characteristics or presumed characteristics of the victim: race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity
  • Offence committed against an emergency worker 
  • Offence was committed against person providing a public service
  • Offence committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public or against a person coming to the assistance of an emergency worker
  • Offence committed in prison 
  • Commission of offence whilst under the influence of alcohol/drugs
  • Offence committed whilst on licence or subject to post sentence supervision
  • Failure to comply with current court orders
  • Offence committed in a domestic context
  • History of violence or abuse towards victim by offender 
  • Presence of children
  • Gratuitous degradation of victim
  • Abuse of power and/or position of trust
  • Steps taken to prevent the victim reporting an incident

Is it possible to be granted bail for GBH with intent? 

Yes, whilst under investigation the police would either have to release you entirely or on bail to return to the police station on a specific date. If on bail the police may impose conditions for example to prevent further offences, absconding or the interference of witnesses.

If charged with an offence the police would need to reconsider bail and it can be refused if there is a significant risk of reoffending, witness interference or not attending court.

What evidence is necessary for a GBH conviction? 

To secure a GBH conviction, the prosecution will need to prove the eliments of the offence. They will typically rely on evidence such as CCTV footage, victim and eyewitness accounts, an offensive weapon, prior threats, and forensic evidence  such as fingerprints or DNA on a weapon.

Can self-defence be considered GBH? 

The law absolutely permits the use of “reasonable force” in the defence of oneself or another. Whether  actions amount to self-defence or GBH will depend on the courts determination of whether  the force  used was reasonable or not.. If you believe that you have a defence of self defence it is crucial that you consult with a criminal law solicitor for advice.

What are the sentencing guidelines for a first-time GBH offence? 

The sentencing guidelines for a first-time GBH offence will depend on the circumstances of the case For low culpability and harm with no intent, a fine or community order may be imposed. However, if there was intent with high culpability and harm, even a first-time offender may face imprisonment.

Seeking legal advice

If you find yourself charged with GBH, it is crucial to seek the advice of experienced criminal defence solicitors who specialise in GBH cases. When interviewed by the police, it is important to have a clear understanding of your legal rights and your position, and the best way to achieve this is by consulting with a GBH solicitors.

Despite the serious nature of GBH allegations, many people Wrongly Decide To Be Interviewed by Police Without A Solicitor

Seeking legal advice from a criminal defence solicitor is not an admission of guilt and can significantly impact the outcome of your case. Even if conviction is inevitable, an experienced GBH solicitor can assist in ensuring  a reduced sentence.

At Burton Copeland, our solicitors possess extensive experience and knowledge of the various defence strategies that are applicable to GBH allegations. We are well-equipped to provide advice and guidance on the best course of action for your individual case.

To discuss a GBH allegation with our team, please call our Manchester office on 0161 827 9500, we have solicitors working around the clock to provide support to those facing allegations. You can also fill in our online contact form to let us know a suitable time to contact you. 

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