Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) | A Complete Guide

by | Oct 1 2021 | Criminal Defence

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In the UK, grievous bodily harm (GBH) is one of the most severe types of assault charges an individual can receive. If the court finds you guilty of this offence, you will likely receive a custodial sentence. 

GBH is part of a range of offences referred to by the court as “offences against the person”. These types of crimes range in seriousness. Please see below: 

  • Common assault
  • Actual bodily harm
  • Wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm 
  • Wounding or causing grievous bodily harm with intent
  • Murder

If you are facing a charge for GBH, please get in touch with LGBT Lawyers, we can help you today. Just give us a quick call on 020 3795 9020, or email the details of your matter to


In short, GBH is when someone intentionally assaults another individual and causes serious harm to the victim. 

The most common forms of GBH include: 

  • Permanent disability
  • Loss of sensory function 
  • Visible disfigurement 
  • Broken bones
  • Psychiatric injuries
  • Substantial blood loss

In the eyes of the law, the charge for this offence is split into two different sections that include: 

  • GBH without intent (section 18)
  • GBH with intent (section 20)

If you have been charged with any of the above, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with LGBT Lawyers on 020 3795 9020

What is the difference between GBH without intent and GBH with intent? 

The clear difference between the two forms of GBH is whether or not it was the offender’s sole intention to cause a certain level of harm to the victim. For example: 

GBH without intent (section 18)

Gary has gone down to his local pub to meet his mate for some beers. At the pub, he gets into a dispute at the bar with the locals over the football. During the conflict, a fight breaks out, and Gary punches one of the locals in the nose causing it to break. 

In the example above, Gary will likely face charges for GBH under section 18 as it can be challenging to prove that it was Gary’s sole intention to cause that level of injury to the victim. 

GBH with intent (section 20)

Nigel has been offended over social media by someone in his local town. The person was making comments about Nigel’s appearance. As a result, Nigel purchased some knuckle dusters and went to the person’s house and broke their nose.

In the example above, Nigel is likely to be found guilty of GBH with intent as he had the intention to cause GBH-level injuries to the victim. 

Have you been accused of GBH? If so, Just give us a quick call on 020 3795 9020.

What are the punishments for GBH?

The sentencing guidelines for GBH without intent: 

  • 2-5 years custody
  • Community service
  • A fine

The sentencing guidelines for GBH with intent: 

  •  3 years – life imprisonment

Please note, the court evaluates various factors when determining a sentence for GBH, such as: 

  • The seriousness of the injuries
  • Racial or religiously aggravating factors
  • The nature of the assault

GBH is triable only on indictment. Triable only on indictment means that only the Crown Court can deal with the case. The Crown Court possess higher sentencing powers, meaning criminals can face more serve types of punishments. 

For more information on indictable offences, please see our article titled Indictable offences: everything you need to know

What can be used to defend against a GBH charge?

The primary defence that can defend against a GBH charge is self-defence. 

If successfully presented and pleaded at court, the defence of self-defence (which includes acting to protect property) will result in an acquittal. 

In the eyes of the law, a person can apply a reasonable level of force in the circumstance as he honestly believes them to be in defence of himself, another or property. 

A person may be entitled to self-defence if: 

  • They believed that it was necessary to act in defence.
  • They delivered a reasonable level of force. 
  • The person is trying to defend another individual.
  • It’s for the prevention of crime.

You should always seek legal assistance when pleading not guilty, as the sentence for GBH could result in charge of life imprisonment. 

What should you do if the police arrest you for GBH?

If the police arrest you for a GBH charge, your first step should be to seek legal representation. It is essential to seek legal assistance as soon as possible after being arrested, as the police will begin building a case against you. 

The key benefit of instructing a criminal defence lawyer who specialises in GBH matters is: 

  • Provide you with advice on whether you should take a plea.
  • Advise and represent you during police questioning regarding GBH.
  • Evaluate the evidence for and against you.
  • Provide you with court representation.
  • Analyse if there are discrepancies within the evidence submitted. 
How can we help? 

If you are facing a charge for GBH or another form of assault, we can help. Here at LGBT Lawyers, we can connect you to a lawyer who specialises in assault matters and understands the nuances of this complex area of law. 

A key benefit of using our service is that we will ensure that you have a criminal defence lawyer with you every step of the way. The law surrounding these types of matters are very complex and vary heavily in punishments. It is, therefore, essential that you have a criminal defence lawyer that can build you a watertight case. 

Are you looking for a criminal defence lawyer?

If you have been accused of GBH, we can help.

SPEAK TO OUR TEAM ON 020 3795 9020 

Need an LGBT Lawyer on your side?

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