Grievous bodily harm is one of the more serious charges that criminal lawyers deal with which can be laid against a person. It is applied in cases of significant injury and carries hefty penalties. As a result, you need to understand the ins and outs of grievous bodily harm to ensure you can navigate it properly.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at:
- What is grievous bodily harm, and when does the charge apply?
- What are the penalties for grievous bodily harm?
- What defences are available to defend a charge of grievous bodily harm that criminal lawyers can help you with?
- What to do if you’re charged with grievous bodily harm?
What is Grievous Bodily Harm?
Legally the charge is relatively simple. The Criminal Code says it is a crime to “do grievous bodily harm to another”.
But that leads to the obvious question: what is grievous bodily harm?
The term itself relates to the type of injury that another person might suffer because of your actions. So, grievous bodily harm means any injury that results in:
- Losing a body part or organ;
- “Serious disfigurement”; or
- Any injury to someone that, if not treated, would:
- endanger their life or be likely to, or
- cause, or be likely to cause,
permanent injury to health (including death).
The first and third of those are self-explanatory, but you might be wondering what “serious disfigurement” means. A serious disfigurement is, generally, an injury that permanently alters a person’s appearance. So, for example, serious scarring or burns can constitute “serious disfigurement”.
Some Important Factors About Grievous Bodily Harm
Beyond the basic information we’ve set out above, grievous bodily harm has some crucial components that need to be kept in mind.
First, the police do not need to prove that you intended to cause grievous bodily harm – your intentions don’t really matter here. They simply need to demonstrate (beyond reasonable doubt) that you caused the relevant injury and you had no lawful excuse to do so.
Next, unlike some types of assault, a person cannot consent to suffer grievous bodily harm – so just because someone gives you permission doesn’t make it lawful.
Finally, there are some circumstances of “aggravation” (that is, situations where a more serious penalty could apply) for grievous bodily harm, some examples include:
- the injury occurred while you were driving a motor vehicle;
- the injury happened while you were intoxicated; or
- you are participating in a “criminal organisation” when the incident occurs; and
- if the GBH offence occurs as part of a domestic violence offence.
Note – What is a Criminal Organisation? A criminal organisation, at least for the purposes of the Queensland Criminal Code, is where 3 or more persons engage in (organise, plan facilitate, support or arrange to engage in) serious criminal activity and who represent an unacceptable risk to the safety, welfare or order of the community.
What Penalties does Grievous Bodily Harm carry?
Grievous bodily harm carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment, although with good criminal lawyers you might be able to receive a lesser penalty.
The actual penalty you might receive if convicted depends heavily on the circumstances, and mitigating factors, and whether or not the GBH had an aggravating component as mentioned above.
All of those things will impact on the overall penalty and what, if any, of it is a custodial sentence (that is, time actually spent in jail).
In most circumstances, though, GBH is treated as a serious criminal offence so the penalty if convicted is likely to be significant.
What Defences are Available for a Grievous Bodily Harm Charge?
Sometimes, even where an injury has been suffered, your criminal lawyers might be able to establish a defence to the charge.
If the facts support it, some available defences your criminal lawyers can argue include:
- Self-defence – if you are subject to an unprovoked assault, then it is legal for you to use such force as reasonably necessary to defend yourself. That force must not be intended or likely to cause death or GBH, and must be proportionate to the assault inflicted upon you.
- Insanity – if you are found to be (or have been) insane and cannot understand what you are doing, do not have control of your actions, or lose the capacity to know you ought not be doing something then you may be able to use this defence.
- Compulsion or emergency – if you are under some types of duress, or the GBH is a result of lawfully recognised necessity, then you may be able to resist the charge on this basis.
As mentioned above, “consent” is not a defence. Nor is provocation – you cannot say you were provoked into committing grievous bodily harm.
What Should you Do If You’re Charged with Grievous Bodily Harm?
This is another area where you need to remember your right to remain silent.
You are not obliged to answer questions, make a statement, or participate in an interview with police without first consulting with a criminal lawyer.
As always, we recommend you seek legal advice about the grievous bodily harm charge before doing anything else.
Your criminal lawyers can then guide you through the process and give you individual advice about what should happen.
How Can TWC’s Criminal Lawyers Help You with A Grievous Bodily Harm Charge?
Our criminal lawyers have extensive experience helping people charged with grievous bodily harm.
First and foremost, it’s important you get a criminal lawyer on board as early in the situation as possible. This might be as soon as possible after the incident has occurred, even if you have not yet been contacted by police.
Next, our criminal lawyers will ensure that we discuss with you all of the relevant information about the incident and the surrounding circumstances that might be:
- of concern to the police;
- relevant to establishing a defence for you; or
- a possible mitigating factor for any sentencing.
Of course, all information given to your criminal lawyers is privileged and confidential – we won’t share it with the police.
From there, we can help you decide whether the best option is to proactively engage with the police investigation, to provide a police statement, or something else entirely. We can also establish what other witnesses might be needed for your case, and what other evidence might be necessary to gather early on.
Of course, if you DO get charged with grievous bodily harm we will review the police evidence and statements carefully to see if there is actually a real possibility that they can make out the charge.
Naturally we can also argue for you in Court regarding any bail conditions or at the trial itself.
So if you are concerned about the potential for a grievous bodily harm charge against you (whether or not one has been brought) it’s important to get in touch sooner rather than later.