Section 20, GBH, Unlawful Wounding

Causing grievous bodily harm is a very serious assault, where you are accused of unlawfully assaulting the victim, and causing them very serious injuries. 

This is very similar to s.18 wounding with intent, but is not as serious as there is no intention to cause the serious injuries.

If you are accused of s.20 wounding, the Court needs to be sure that you have unlawfully assaulted the victim and have either wounded them or inflicted serious injuries. 

The Prosecution will have to produce medical evidence about the injuries, and to prove that the injuries were caused by the suspect.

Even if injuries have been caused in an incident, it does not mean the person has committed an offence. For example, if someone has acted in self defence they will not be guilty of an unlawful assault. 

Alternatively, there are cases where the defendant has been in a fight with the victim, but they did not cause the serious injuries and so are not guilty of GBH.

s.20 GBH is an either way offence, which means that it can be dealt with in either the Magistrates Court or Crown Court, depending on how serious the case is. 

In the Crown Court it carries a maximum penalty on indictment of 5 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. In the Magistrates’ Court the maximum penalty is six months imprisonment and/or a fine

It is very rare that the Magistrates Court would deal with this charge though, and nearly all s.20 GBH cases are dealt with by the Crown Court. This makes it even more important that you are represented in the Crown Court by a barrister who can explain the best way to present your case, and who will act in your best interests.

The Actus Reus (guilty act) of section 20 assault includes unlawful wounding and serious bodily harm. 

A Section 47 assault of Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) is a less serious offence and GBH is charged when the offence is too serious to be ABH. Bruises and scratches would not be considered to be GBH, whereas a broken limb or a stab wound would be too severe for an ABH offence.

Psychiatric illness and disease transmission can also constitute GBH. This is apparent in the case of R v Mohammed Dica who was the first person to be successfully convicted of section 20 GBH in 2003 after knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse with two women after being found HIV positive. He didn’t notify the women of the risks or inform them that he was carrying the disease. He was convicted on the grounds that his recklessness caused serious harm to the victims’ health.

The Mens Rea of section 20 GBH is the intention to cause some harm or recklessness to the victim, regardless of whether harm was actually caused. The defendant needn’t foresee serious injury, he must merely acknowledge the risk of some injury from his actions.

If you, or someone you know, are accused of this offence please contact us to see how we can help you. 

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