We are specialist ABH solicitors, helping people across England and Wales. If you are being investigated for, or charged with, this offence, it is vital that you call our ABH solicitors as soon as possible. This page offers general information about ABH. Our team of ABH solicitors are ready to give you legal advice for your specific case on 01623 600645.
What legislation covers this offence?
Assault on another person causing actual bodily harm is an offence under Section 47 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.
What type of conduct does this offence cover?
ABH is similar to Common Assault but involves a serious injury (‘bodily harm’).
ABH is therefore a more serious offence.
The use of the term ‘bodily harm’ within the Act has its ordinary meaning and includes any hurt calculated to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim: such hurt need not be permanent, but must be more than transient and trifling: (R v Donovan 25 Cr. App. Rep. 1, CCA).
What are the differences between ABH and Common Assault?
The differences between these offences can be summarised in two ways:-
- The degree of injury which results from the assault; and
- The sentencing powers at the disposal of the sentencing court
Note: Where serious injury has been caused by an assault, then a person should normally be charged with ABH, and not Common Assault.
What is meant by a ‘serious’ injury?
In making a determination as to whether an injury is serious, in terms of the Act, the following factors should be considered:-
- Has there been significant medical intervention; and/or
- Have permanent effects resulted from the assault?
The need for a number of stitches (but not the superficial use of steri-strips), or a hospital procedure under anaesthetic would be good examples of an injure which is serious in nature.
Other relevant factors should also be considered, whatever these may be.
Psychological harm can also amount to ABH – but this needs to be more serious than transient emotions such as fear, distress or panic.
Guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) indicates that in any case where psychiatric injury is relied upon as the basis for an allegation of ABH, and the matter is not admitted by the defence, expert evidence must be called by the prosecution (R v Chan-Fook 99 Cr. App. R. 147, CA)
What sentencing powers do the courts have for this offence?
ABH is an either way offence, which means it can be heard in the magistrates’ or the Crown Court.
It carries 6 months imprisonment in the magistrates’ court, or up to 5 years in the Crown Court. It is therefore vital that you instruct ABH solicitors to prepare the best mitigation or defence for your case.
What factors affect sentencing for ABH?
First of all, the degrees of harm caused to the ‘victim’, and the culpability (responsibility/blame) attributed to the person charged with the offence are assessed.
In this way, the offence is separated out into three categories of ascending seriousness. The court will decide which of these categories the offences fits.
In terms of harm, they will look at the level of injury, or fear of injury, and whether the victim is particularly vulnerable.
In relation to culpability, they will consider whether the offence was motivated by hostility to a person’s disability, sexuality, age, sex or gender. Use, or threatened use, of a weapon will make the matter more serious – this includes head butts or kicking, as well as a group activity.
The court will then look at factors that make the offence more serious, followed by those that would make it less serious.
What defences are there to a charge of ABH?
In common with all assault charges, it is a defence to show that you acted in self-defence.
You would have to show that you feared an attack and that the force you used was not excessive. You do not have to wait until you are hit before defending yourself – it is enough to show that you thought you were going to be attacked.
In appropriate cases, you may be able to argue mistaken identity.