Violent Crimes and Their Punishments

by | May 24 2021 | Criminal Defence

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Violent crimes and their legal penalties | 5 minute read
A criminal defence lawyer will have to confront many crimes during their career, including fraud, theft and negligence. However, no case will leave so large an impact, on both victim and accused, as a violent crime.

Violent offences can be difficult, brutal and are actually some of the most common offences in the UK. The category of “violent crimes” covers a vast span of violations, from more common, daily occurrences to major, bloody crimes. Whatsmore, it is one of the more complex areas of law, as each violent crime has its own legislation and punitive measures.

This article will examine some of the most common violent offences in the UK, along with their legal penalties, and what you should do if you are accused.

LGBT Lawyers a man in the night about to commit a violent crime

What is a violent crime?

Violent crimes are any form of crime or criminal activity that pose a threat to someone’s safety and can often involve a form of weapon. Furthermore, they can occur anywhere, between anyone, and can involve someone you may or may not know. Violent attacks can be driven by money, by personal reasons or can sometimes be completely random.

Violent crimes are some of the most unpleasant cases that a lawyer may handle. In fact, the category of violent crimes is an umbrella term for a multitude of different offences, with comparatively minor crimes such as robbery and common assault occurring on a daily basis.

What is Considered A Violent Crime?

There are countless different forms of violent crime in the UK. However, the most common include:

  • Sexual offences/ sexual assault/ rape
  • Offences against children
  • Offences against the Person, such as GBH, ABH, and common assault
  • Robbery/ Burglary/ Theft /Handling Stolen Goods

In the year ending March 2020, there were 1.2 million incidents of violent crimes in the UK. This equated to:


  • 695 recorded homicides (murders)
  • Almost half a million reports of violent stalking/ harassment 
  • 540,000 reports of injuries during a violent crime
case study

In the year ending March 2020, the Gray’s lorry incident accounted for a 7% increase in violent crimes on the previous year.

In October 2019, 8 criminals were charged with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants, who had suffocated on their journey to England. The 4 leaders of the operation were charged with manslaughter and the incident was the largest mass-manslaughter case in the UK in over 20 years.

what legal penalties are there for violent crimes?


1) Physical Attacks
LGBT Lawyers young man committing a violent crime
Physical attacks occur on a daily basis and can range from minor instances, such as a pub brawl, to serious, targetted physical damage that may involve a weapon. Physical attacks can also include offences like hate crimes, harassment and stalking.
Common assault
Common assault can be anything from threatening words or a raised fist all the way to a full attack. If the common assault involves physical abuse, this is called “battery.” The maximum sentence for common assault is 6 months imprisonment, and cases must be at the Magistrates Court.
Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)
ABH refers to an assault that has posed more than just physical harm to the victim, but has not necessarily involved serious damage.

ABH can cover psychiatric harm, as well as physical injuries which are not always permanent. The maximum sentence for ABH is 5 years imprisonment, and cases must be at the Magistrate’s Court.

Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)
GBH is the most severe form of physical assault and applies to a situation where the attacker intended to do serious physical harm to the victim. The maximum sentence for a section 18 GBH offence is life imprisonment, and cases must be at the Crown Court.
2) sexual offences and offences involving children
LGBT Lawyers a woman about to be victim of a violent crime
Physically violent sexual offences refers to rape, sexual assault and child abuse. However, there are also non-violent forms of these crimes such as voyeurism and non-violent pedophilia. These are some of the most sinister violent crimes and can come with severe penalties.
Sexual Assault
Sexual assault can be any form of non-consensual sexual activity. It carries a maximum of 10 years in jail, and a potential £5,000 fine.
Sentencing guidelines for rape depend on the category that the crime falls into.

The more extreme the offence, the higher the sentencing time. In the UK, the maximum sentence for rape is life imprisonment, while the starting point is 5 years.

Sexual/ Physical violence against children
Rape and sexual assault against a child under the age of 13 also carry severe sentencing measures.

Rape of a child under the age of 13 has a maximum life penalty, while sexual assault carries a maximum of 14 years in custody.

 3) Taking another person’s life
LGBT Lawyers a pair of bloody hands after a violent crime
Murder, attempted murder and manslaughter are violent crimes that transcend physical attacks. These forms of violence involve the deliberate taking of someone’s life, attempting to do so or taking someone’s life unintentionally.
Murder, or homicide, is the deliberate or premeditated taking of another’s life. In the UK, there are approximately 2 murders every day.

Murder carries a mandatory life sentence if the accused is convicted, meaning the Judge won’t have the authority to offer a lower sentence.

Attempted Murder
Attempted murder runs in a similar vein to murder itself because the accused had the intent to kill. Sentencing for attempted murder depends on the nature of the offence. For example, the Judge will look at the victim’s long-term harm and to what degree the murder was attempted.
Manslaughter differs from murder, as the intention behind the act was not to kill and was not necessarily on purpose.

Sentencing for manslaughter varies depending on the severity of the offence and could carry life imprisonment. However, a typical sentence is between 2-10 years.

4) Other violent crimes
LGBT Lawyers a man arrested of a violent crime
There are multiple other violent crimes that this article hasn’t touched upon. However, some other forms of violent offences include domestic abuse, acid attacks and violent robberies.
Domestic Violence
Sentencing for domestic violence depends on factors such as whether a restraining or non-molestation order are in place, if the offender has committed the abuse before and how severe the abuse was.

Domestic abuse, if successfully convicted, carries a minimum sentence of 3 years probation and a 52-week batter’s programme.

Acid Attacks
Acid attacks are a disturbingly common occurrence. Government guidance states that those who are using acid to harm or threaten will receive a mandatory 6-month prison sentence, with under 18’s receiving a 4-month detention and a training order.
This can be an umbrella term for multiple offences, such as trespassing, theft, assault and carrying a weapon.

Robbery can carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the crime and their violence towards the victim.

How Will the Court Decide on the Sentencing for A Violent Crime?

Despite giving a guideline for the sentences that come with violent crimes, it’s ultimately the courts decision. They will consider factors such as: 

  • Remorse
  • Co-operation with the prosecution
  • The severity of your crime 
  • Any previous convictions 

what happens if I’m arrested for a VIOLENT crime?

UK law is split into two systems: civil and criminal. A violent crime, no matter what form it takes, will always be a criminal offence. If you are the victim of a violent crime, you will need to report it to the police as your first point of action, where they will launch an investigation. However, if someone accuses you of a violent crime, you will need to prepare for what will come next.

1. If someone accuses you of a violent crimes, the police will typically begin by arresting you and taking you to a police cell where you will be held in custody.

2. The police will then conduct a recorded investigation and will ask you questions about the crime and will explain your rights.

3. After your interview, you will either be released or charged with the crime in question. If the authorities charge you with a violent crime, you will receive a charge sheet, which will outline the details of your charge.. The police may allow you to go home until your court hearing, which mean you’ll be in bail.

4. Alternatively, they may keep you in police custody until your court hearing. Serious violent crimes like murder and rape are known as indictable offences and are passed straight on to the Crown Court for trial or sentencing.

what if i’m falsely accused of a violent crime?

It’s likely that proceedings for a false accusation will follow the standard arrest procedure. Normally, if you’ve been accused of a crime you did not commit, the police will interview you and will have enough evidence to let you go.

However, if this isn’t the case, you’ll need to get a defence lawyer involved immediately, to help you gather evidence and build your argument. It’s important that you don’t:

  • Destroy any possible evidence
  • Talk to the victim or witnesses
  • Talk to the police without your lawyer present

What does a criminal defence lawyer do?

A criminal defence lawyer is responsible for representing you throughout your case and making a counterargument against the prosecution. They will work with the police during your investigation and will gather testimonials and evidence from witnesses.

Serious violent crimes are always tried before a jury at Crown Court. During court proceedings, your defence lawyer will speak on your behalf and will essentially explain to the jury why you should not be prosecuted for the crime.  

WHEN DO I Need a Criminal Defence Lawyer?

It’s important that you understand the severity of criminal matters and the punitive consequences attached to these issues. For criminal issues with potential consequences, we would always advise you to seek legal help. Whatsmore, taking the right actions early can ensure you minimise any stress on yourself and stop any further action.

If you are arrested for a violent crime, or if you think that you will be accused/arrested for a violent crime, you must involve a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible to start to build a defence. As soon as you are accused of a crime, you must contact a criminal defence lawyer even before you speak to the police. At the beginning of the defence case, a defence lawyer will use the information provided and detailed instructions and interviews to build a defence case.

Facing Criminal Charges?

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