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If you or someone you care about faces charges for an incident involving assault with a weapon, you are understandably worried about what this could mean and what might happen next. Assault with a weapon is serious and can carry severe penalties. In this article, we outline what assault with a weapon means in the broader scheme of assault offences and answer some of the most common questions we get as specialist solicitors in this area. As with any crime, you must secure the advice of a trusted legal representative if you have already been charged.
The offence of assault with a weapon is commonly referred to as ‘assault with intent to cause serious harm’ or ‘assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.’ It is an offence under Section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and is punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
To be convicted of this offence, the prosecution must prove that the defendant intentionally or recklessly caused injury to the victim using a weapon or other object that was capable of causing serious harm. The weapon does not have to be a traditional weapon such as a knife or gun but can be any object that is used to cause injuries, such as a bottle or a chair.
The offence of assault with a weapon requires a specific intent to cause serious harm or grievous bodily harm, which means that the defendant must have acted intending to cause such harm or with the knowledge that it was likely to result from their actions.
If the prosecution is unable to prove this specific intent, the defendant may be charged with a lesser offence such as common assault or battery.
The prosecution may present a variety of types of evidence, including:
If the assault with a weapon is considered to be at the level of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to do grievous bodily harm or wounding with intent to do GBH under Section 18 of the Offences of the Person Act 1861, the case will be tried in the Crown Court due to its seriousness.
If you plead guilty to the offence of assault with a weapon, you will be convicted of an offence and will be subject to punishment as determined by the court.
The punishment for assault with a weapon, which as mentioned is usually considered GBH, is set out in Section 18. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment. The actual sentence imposed will depend on the specific circumstances of the case, as well as any mitigating or aggravating factors that are present.
Pleading guilty to an offence can often result in a more lenient sentence than if you are found guilty after a trial. If you admit guilt at the first available opportunity, you may receive up to a one-third reduction in your sentence. This is because a guilty plea is considered a sign of remorse and may be taken into account as a mitigating factor in sentencing.
If you plead not guilty to the charge of assault with a weapon, the case will proceed to trial. At trial, the prosecution will present evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the offence. You will have the opportunity to challenge this evidence and present your evidence in your defence.
If the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the offence, despite your not guilty plea, you will be convicted and subject to punishment as determined by the court. If the prosecution is unable to prove your guilt, you will be found not guilty.
Due to the seriousness of the offence, you will likely go to jail for a first offence of assault with a weapon. That said, you are likely to receive a lesser sentence than someone who has committed this crime, or similarly serious crimes, before.
Some of the most common defences to assault with a weapon include:
A conviction will become spent after a ‘rehabilitation period’, yet some offences are so serious as to never become spent (and thus they will always show on Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks).
If you are over 18 at the time of the offence and receive a sentence of life imprisonment, the conviction will never become spent. At the other end of the spectrum, if you were under 18 at the time of the offence and received a sentence of less than two years and six months, the conviction will become spent after two years. The full guidelines are found here.
Common assault is an offence under Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. It involves any intentional or reckless act that causes another person to fear that they are about to be subjected to immediate unlawful violence. It can also include touching someone in a way that is intended to be offensive or insulting. Common assault is punishable by a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment and a fine.
Actual bodily harm (ABH) is an offence under Section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. It involves causing actual, rather than just threatened, physical harm to another person. ABH can include any injury that interferes with the victim’s health or comfort, such as cuts, bruises, or broken bones. It is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a fine.
In general, ABH is considered a more serious offence than common assault because it involves actual physical harm to the victim, rather than just the threat of harm.
ABH is defined above. Assault by beating, however, is a special form of common assault. You will see the charge ‘assault by beating’ on a charge sheet when the alleged offence involves a battery, i.e. the unlawful application of force to another person. Note that because assault by beating can involve something unpleasant but relatively minor like spitting, whereas ABH involves actual physical force, the former is generally considered less serious than ABH. Assault by beating carried a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment and a fine.
Any assault charge is serious, but when a weapon is involved, the offence may be especially serious and attract the most severe of punishments. For this reason, it is crucial that if you are facing charges involving assault with a weapon, you get expert legal representation as soon as possible. The team at Stuart Miller Solicitors are widely recognised as leading defence lawyers in this area and will be able to advise on the best course of action. We may even be able to get your case dropped before it reaches trial. Get in touch today for a no obligation consultation.
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