Sam Stein QC
“Get a top criminal barrister on your side from day 1”
There are various forms of offence that fall under the classification of assault, and all are considered to be offences against the person. Section 18, or GBH with intent, is considered to be the most serious assault charge, while a section 47 or ABH is the least serious. Malicious wounding, which is more properly referred to as a section 20 assault, falls somewhere in the middle. All forms of assault are taken seriously, and the prosecution will typically try for the most serious that they believe can be proven in court.
Offences against the person can lead to sentences that include prison terms, although it is also common for lesser offences to be dealt with using community sentencing and financial fines. There can be a considerable difference in the maximum penalties associated with each of the forms of assault, and this makes it especially important that your have an experienced lawyer, who will be able to determine whether the prosecution should try a lesser offence.
Section 18 GBH, is known as GBH with intent, and this means that the prosecution must prove that the accused intended to cause serious bodily harm. Generally, serious bodily harm is considered to be any form of injury where the skin is broken although there are exceptions to this. If intent cannot be proven then a section 20 assault is the more likely crime that you will be tried for.
In the case of section 47 assaults, intent does not need to be proven and the injuries sustained must be more than “trifling” but may include cuts and bruises, and even psychological injuries.
While section 18 assault cases will always be heard in a Crown Court and section 47 assault will always be heard in a Magistrates’ Court, section 20 assault cases may be heard in either of the courts.
Assault charges can lead to prison sentences, and often will for the most serious offences. However, fines and community sentencing may also be used, depending on the seriousness and type of assault that was committed. If you have been accused of any of these types of crime, you should instruct a lawyer to work on your behalf as soon as possible, preferably ready for the police interview, but it is never too late to secure high quality legal representation.
© 2014 Sam Stein QC