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What is the sentence for Conspiracy to Commit GBH in the UK?

grievous bodily harm

Conspiracy to commit GBH is a charge that is often used to prosecute gang related acts of planned violence. A conspiracy charge can be brought even where the bodily harm that was arranged did not actually occur. The courts punish these types of offences harshly especially where they are perceived to be part of the scourge of youth-committed knife crime in the United Kingdom. However, regardless of the circumstances in which the alleged offence occurred, as a defendant in the criminal justice process you have the right to due process, which includes cross-examining the prosecution’s witnesses. This means that your legal team will be able to test the strength of the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) case against you.

Particularly for conspiracy charges, where evidence of a plan could be tenuous, it is of vital importance that you have a criminal defence solicitor who explores all avenues regarding possible defences that you may be able to rely upon. Even where you put forward a guilty plea, your solicitor can help you prepare your plea in mitigation.

What is the criminal offence of GBH?

There are two legal offences of grievous bodily harm in the law of England and Wales. These are:

  • Grievous Bodily Harm pursuant to s18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861-(shooting/wounding with intent) – this offence applies where really serious harm is caused with the intention of causing really serious harm. This charge will usually be brought in cases of intentional stabbing where the victim survives. This charge will also be brought in cases of a repeated or planned attack. Other factors that indicate this charge will be brought include the deliberate selection or adaptation of a weapon to cause injury, such as breaking a bottle in order to stab the victim with it.
  • Grievous Bodily Harm pursuant to s20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861this is where really serious harm is caused where the defendant intended or foresaw the risk of some harm. The threshold for proving this offence is lower because the prosecution does not need to prove that the defendant intended the serious level of harm that was caused. For example, where the defendant pushed the victim in a bar brawl, and the victim hit their head on a chair and fell into a coma, this charge could be brought.

What is a conspiracy in law?

A conspiracy is an agreement or plan with another person or persons to partake in a criminal offence. You could be convicted of conspiracy to commit GBH, even if the planned act of GBH never in fact occurs. For example, say you and three others specifically planned to stab person X at 9pm on Tuesday, 10 November 2020. However, on that day, person X had been arrested by the police and they were remanded at the police station, so the planned stabbing could not occur. Nonetheless, if there was evidence of a plan to stab X, you could be convicted of conspiracy to commit GBH. Where a conspiracy charge is brought in relation to GBH, it will usually be charged as the s18 offence. This is because the existence of a specific plan suggests that the act was intentional.

Conspiracy to commit GBH would be prosecuted under Section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 (CLA). This establishes that the following must be proven in order to convict a person of conspiracy:

  1. You must have entered an agreement/ made a plan with another person or persons to pursue a course of conduct.
  2. Either, the course of conduct involves the commission of a criminal offence, or, the course of conduct would have amounted to the commission of an offence, but for the existence of facts that would make committing an offence impossible.

In order to be a conspiracy, the discussion must go beyond mere speculation. However, it could be that certain facts relating to the plan have not been confirmed. Whether or not a conversation is sufficient to amount to a conspiracy is a question for the jury to confirm based on the facts of the case. There are certain legal exemptions to when a conspiracy can take place. These are:

  • You cannot be convicted of conspiracy concerning an agreement with your spouse.
  • A conspiracy cannot occur between you and a child under the age of criminal responsibility (10 years old).

Note, however, that you could be convicted of conspiracy for an agreement involving your spouse and/or a child, if there is also another person involved who is not your spouse or a child under the age of 10.

What is the sentence for conspiracy to commit GBH?

The maximum sentence for s18 GBH/wounding with intent to cause GBH is life imprisonment. This means that the maximum sentence for conspiracy to commit GBH is also life imprisonment. The offence will always be heard in the Crown Court. A life sentence does not mean that you will spend your entire life behind bars. Instead, it means that you will serve a substantial custodial sentence and the rest of your life will be spent on licence. The sentence range is between a 2 year custodial sentence and a 16 year custodial sentence.

You may be surprised to learn that you could face life imprisonment even if you were not the person who committed the violence/wounding yourself. Evidence in respect of the extent of your involvement in the plan, i.e. your culpability, will be relevant to the sentence that you could face. The court will also consider whether a vulnerable victim was targeted. If an especially dangerous weapon was used, such as an illegal knife, this will also increase the culpability of those involved in the conspiracy. Where the attack took place in revenge for a previous act, or where it was prolonged or persistent this will also be taken into account.

The court will also look at the harm that was caused by the offence. The most serious cases will involve grave or life-threatening injury, or where the victim suffers from a permanent, irreversible injury as a result of the incident.

For example, say you played a leading role in organising the stabbing of a rival gang member using a prohibited weapon. The attack was planned as a revenge for a previous attack where their gang killed your brother. The stabbing causes the victim life-changing injuries. As a result, the victim will have to use a wheelchair for the rest of their life. For an incident such as this, the court is likely to impose a significant custodial sentence of between 10 and 16 years.

To take a different example, say you were coerced into becoming involved in a revenge stabbing incident. You were the driver of the car which delivered the perpetrator to the scene. You were threatened with violence against your younger siblings if you did not comply. In this instance, the victim was taken to hospital however they were discharged after receiving stitches and did not suffer any serious after effects. In these circumstances, your sentence range is likely to be between 2 and 4 years.

Where in the sentence range your sentence will fall depends on which aggravating and mitigating factors are relevant to your personal circumstances. Your sentence could be on the lower side if you are a first-time offender, if you showed remorse, and/or if you showed commitment to change your lifestyle and leave gang activity. Meanwhile, if you have previously been convicted of violent offences, this would be a statutory aggravating factor.

For more information, see the guide from the Sentencing Council here.

Where to get further help?

If you have been accused of conspiracy to commit GBH, contact Stuart Miller Solicitors for advice and representation. We will give you robust advice on the legal elements that the prosecution will need to prove in order to convict you. We will also advise you on aspects of their case which may not meet the legal threshold of beyond reasonable doubt. Where you wish to put forward a guilty plea, we can help you prepare your plea in mitigation. Contact us today.

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