Grievous Bodily Harm Charges25 April 2023 in Criminal Law
Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) is an element of various serious criminal offences that may result in severe penalties. GBH refers to any injury that involves serious harm, such as permanent disfigurement, loss of limbs or life-threatening injuries.
The court has determined that the following types of injuries constitute GBH:
- Fractured jaw and skull
- Deep cuts requiring significant suturing, nerve repair or surgery
- Brain damage
- Knowingly transmitting HIV
- Causing a mother to lose her foetus
In NSW, most GBH charges are dealt with under Sections 33, 35 or 54 of the Crimes Act 1900. The prosecution must prove that the defendant intended to cause GBH (section 33) or acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others (section 35) or simply caused GBH by a negligent or unlawful act (section 54). This means that even if a person did not intend to cause serious harm, they may still be charged with GBH if their actions showed a disregard for the potential harm they could cause or the harm was caused by a negligent or unlawful act.
Penalties for GBH in New South Wales vary depending on the severity of the crime and the circumstances surrounding it. In addition to the criminal penalties, a conviction for GBH can also have serious consequences for a person’s personal and professional life. A criminal record for GBH can make it difficult for a person to find employment, travel abroad or participate in certain activities.
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Types of Charges Involving Grievous Bodily Harm
Intent to cause GBH
Intentionally causing grievous bodily harm is a criminal offence pursuant to Section 33(1) of the Crimes Act.
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had the specific intention to cause GBH. It is not enough for the prosecution to simply prove that the defendant caused serious harm, as this could have been an accidental outcome. In some cases, evidence such as threats made prior to the incident, the use of a weapon or the nature of the injury may be used to prove the defendant’s intention to cause GBH.
The maximum penalty for intent to cause GBH is 25 years imprisonment.
Recklessly causing GBH
Recklessly causing GBH is a criminal offence pursuant to Section 35(2) of the Crimes Act.
The prosecution does not have to prove that the defendant intended to cause GBH, but rather that the defendant acted in a manner that showed a reckless disregard for the potential harm they could cause. To determine if an act was reckless, the court will consider factors such as the defendant’s knowledge of the potential harm their actions could cause and whether they took any steps to mitigate the risk of harm.
The maximum penalty for recklessly causing GBH is 10 years imprisonment or 14 years if the offender was accompanied by another person.
Unlawful or negligent acts leading to GBH
Negligently causing GBH is a criminal offence pursuant to Section 54 of the Crimes Act.
The prosecution does not have to prove that the defendant intended to cause harm, but instead it must be proven that the defendant acted unlawfully or negligently and that this resulted in GBH to another person.
The concept of negligence refers to a failure to take reasonable care in a given situation, while an unlawful act refers to any act that is prohibited by law. To assess whether the defendant acted in a negligent or unlawful manner, the court will consider matters such as the defendant’s understanding of the damage the defendant’s actions might bring about and if they made any efforts to minimise the risk of harm.
The maximum penalty for unlawful or negligent acts leading to GBH is 2 years imprisonment.
Defences for GBH
Self-defence could serve as a potential defence against charges related to GBH. In order to claim self-defence, the following must be established:
- The defendant believed that their actions were necessary to protect themselves;
- The defendant’s actions were a reasonable reaction given the circumstances as they perceived them; and
- The actions taken were not excessive or unreasonable.
There are other defences that may also be considered, such as questioning whether the injuries sustained were serious or permanent enough to be classified as GBH, or arguing that the act was done out of necessity or duress.
What is the difference between GBH and aggravated assault?
In NSW, there is no specific crime referred to as “aggravated assault.” Rather, the term refers to an instance of assault committed under “aggravating circumstances,” such as the use of a weapon. This type of assault may or may not result in GBH.
How can BSM help?
It is important for anyone facing GBH charges to seek the advice of a criminal lawyer. Brander Smith McKnight’s expert team of criminal lawyers can help you understand the charges against you, your rights and the best course of action to take in your particular circumstances. In some cases, we may be able to negotiate with the prosecution to reduce the charges or negotiate a more lenient sentence.