Criminal Law: GBH and Wounding

GBH and Wounding

Section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Establishing Section 20

The actus reus of s 20 is established if the defendant wounds or inflicts grievous bodily harm (‘GBH’) on the victim. The actus reus is fulfilled whether or not the defendant used a weapon or his bare hands.

The mens rea of s 20 is established if the defendant intended to cause some harm (serious or otherwise), or was subjectively reckless as to whether harm would be caused: R v Mowatt [1968] 1 QB 421.

GBH and Wounding
Wounding, injection with needle

A wound is a break in the whole continuity (ie, all of the layers) of the skin: Moriarty v Brooks (1834) 6 C&P 684. It is insufficient that there is bruising or internal rupture if the skin is unbroken: C (A Minor) v Eisenhower [1984] QB 331.

Grievous harm, broken bone, x-ray

Grievous bodily harm is defined as ‘very serious harm’ and given its ordinary meaning: R v Metheran [1961] 3 All ER 200. It can include recognised psychiatric illnesses: R v Ireland [1997] 3 WLR 534. Whether harm is sufficiently serious is a question of fact for the jury to decide.

‘Inflicts’

It appears from the case law that ‘inflicting’ GBH means ‘causing‘ GBH: R v Burstow [1997] UKHL 34.


Section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Establishing Section 18

The actus reus of s 18 is established if the defendant wounds or inflicts grievous bodily harm (‘GBH’) on the victim, with or without using a weapon. The actus reus of the s 18 offence is the same actus reus as the s 20 offence above, and so the definitions of each term are the same.

The mens rea of s 18 is intention to inflict grievous bodily harm or intention to resist lawful arrest. It is not enough that the defendant was reckless: Re Knight’s Appeal (1968) FLR 81. It is also not enough that the defendant intended to wound if this would not amount to GBH: R v Taylor [2009] EWCA Crim 544.

Greater Intentions

An intention to kill the victim is assumed to also include the intention to inflict grievous bodily harm: R v Grant [2014] EWCA Crim 143. An attempted murder which only seriously injures might result in a section 18 conviction.


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Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Quiz

Test yourself on the principles governing the non-sexual, non-fatal offences against the person.

1 / 19

Celestine is a school nurse. Mark, a seventeen-year-old, is brought in with a suspected case of tonsillitis. Mark is sulking, so he refuses to let Celestine have a look inside his mouth. She threatens to 'belt him' if he does not comply. Mark knows that school staff have hit students before, so he reluctantly allows her to look in his mouth and touch the inside with tools. Celestine is charged with battery, and argues that she has the defence of consent because Mark allowed her to do what she did. Will this defence succeed?

 

2 / 19

The defendant has committed assault and battery against the victim. He argues that the victim consented. The defence can show that he honestly believed the victim consented, but it is clear that his belief was not reasonable. Does he have a defence?

 

3 / 19

Is consent normally a defence to an offence which causes bodily harm?

4 / 19

What two elements must the prosecution establish to convict a defendant of an offence under section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861?

5 / 19

Theresa smacks her three-year-old daughter when she misbehaves. It leaves a bruise, and Theresa is charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm. She argues that she was engaging in reasonable chastisement. Is this a defence to this offence?

6 / 19

Psychiatric illness cannot constitute grievous bodily harm. True or false?

 

7 / 19

Emmy stabs at Ricky with a blunt kitchen knife. The attack tears the top layer of Ricky's skin off and causes horrific bruising. Has Emmy wounded Ricky?

 

8 / 19

What two elements must the prosecution prove to show assault?

9 / 19

What two elements must the prosecution establish to convict a defendant of an offence under section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861?

10 / 19

Which of the following three scenarios cannot constitute an assault?

11 / 19

Caleb is a prison officer who works transferring violent and unstable prisoners between institutions. During one transfer, one of the prisoners, Dale, commits battery against Caleb. At trial, Dale argues that Caleb consented to the touching since he knew the risks involved in the job and took that risk. Will Dale's consent defence succeed?

 

12 / 19

When establishing the elements of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, the prosecution must prove that the defendant foresaw or intended actual bodily harm. True or false?

 

13 / 19

What is grievous bodily harm?

14 / 19

Harold goes to Ricardo's house, and explains that he is showing men how to check for testicular cancer. Ricardo accepts a demonstration, and during this demonstration, Harold touches Ricardo's leg. In reality, Harold is merely trying to prank Ricardo. When Harold is charged with battery, he argues that Ricardo consented to the touching. Is Ricardo's consent a defence?

 

15 / 19

What two elements must the prosecution prove to show battery?

16 / 19

Which of the following four scenarios are exceptions to the rule that bodily harm cannot be consented to?

17 / 19

Patrick teaches a form of high-speed, high intensity dancing. There is a known risk that dancers may be injured during these dances. During a dance, Yula accidentally kicks Patrick in the chest, causing a rib to break. She is charged with an offence under section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Can she rely on the defence of consent?

 

18 / 19

Theresa is a primary school teacher, and smacks a student when she misbehaves. It does not leave any marks or cause any harm. Theresa is charged with battery. She argues that she was engaging in reasonable chastisement. Is this a defence to this offence?

 

19 / 19

Which of the following would be classed as actual bodily harm?

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