Actual Bodily Harm

Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm, Causing Actual Bodily Harm, ABH, s.47 Assault

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm is a relatively serious allegation, that is frequently dealt with by the criminal courts. The offence is created by section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

If you are accused of causing actual bodily harm, the Prosecution must prove that:

  • You used force against another person,
  • That force was used either intentionally or recklessly,
  • The use of force was unlawful,
  • The use of force caused the other person to suffer an injury.
The injury, or actual bodily harm, can be anything more than a graze or minor bruising. Actual bodily harm is usually charged by the police when the alleged victim of an assault has sustained a cut or similar injury. Cases involving more serious injuries are charged as grievous bodily harm or wounding with intent.
Assault occasioning actual bodily harm is so serious that it is classed as an either way offence. This means that. It can be heard in either the Magistrates Court or Crown Court. In the Magistrates Court, the maximum sentence is 6 months imprisonment. In the Crown Court, the sentence can be up to 5 years custody.

Despite this, a prison sentence is not inevitable in cases of actual bodily harm. Often, the Court can consider whether a community order or suspended sentence would be appropriate, having considered all the circumstances of the case.

Racially Aggravated Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm

There is a separate offence of racially aggravated actual bodily harm, under section 29(1)(b) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. This offence has the same elements as the standard offence described above, but the Prosecution must also prove that the assault was motivated by hostility towards the victim’s racial or religious background.

The maximum sentence in the Crown Court for a racially aggravated assault occasioning actual bodily harm is increased from 5 to 7 years.

If you have been accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, it is important that you have expert advice from a specialist criminal defence lawyer. Contact us to see if we can help you find the best criminal solicitor or barrister for your case.