• Top 1% of Defence Law Firms

  • Defended over 50,000 Cases

  • 5 star google reviews

  • 40 Years of Criminal Law Expertise

Sentencing for grievous bodily harm offences

What is the sentence for grievous bodily harm offences in 2024?

Being under investigation for, charged with or arrested for grievous bodily harm can be very stressful. It’s understandable that you’ll be feeling anxious and stressed out about what may happen next if you or a loved one is charged with this crime.

grievous bodily harm

In the following information you will see mention of section 18 and section 20. These are sections taken from the Offences Against Persons Act 1861 which is the law referred to when it comes to grievous bodily harm offences.

The crime of grievous bodily harm (GBH) or wounding (Section 18) is the most severe form of assault short of attempted murder.  This is particularly true if you’re convicted of grievous bodily harm with intent.

There could be a long prison sentence involved which will make it impossible for you to make an income to support your family. If you don’t have dependents, then your career prospects could be adversely affected as you’ll have a criminal record.

Overall, anybody who involved in a grievous bodily harm case is understandably concerned about what the outcome might be.

It’s probable that you would not have purposefully looked to cause grievous bodily harm. It’s possible that you didn’t assault anybody and are being wrongly accused. Alternatively, you were put into circumstances where this act was your own choice.

Whatever the situation, it’s vital that you get the legal support that you need. Hiring the services of an experienced criminal solicitor can make all the difference. You will be supported legally and emotionally to get you through this difficult challenge.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of the grievous bodily harm offence, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines.  Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get a prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.

Read more information about the offence of Grievous bodily harm

What is the average sentence for grievous bodily harm?

The typical sentence for the grievous bodily harm offence can be anywhere between 3 years and 16 years, depending on how serious the offence is. The decision will come from the court and will be based on how serious the harm was and other factors such as whether the defendant has a previous criminal record involving other violence.

What type of actions are considered Grievous Bodily Harm?

Here are some examples of grievous bodily harm that may have led to the situation at hand.

Visible disfigurement – examples maybe a broken cheekbone, fractured skull, loss of sensory function or any other permanent disability including psychiatric injury.

Stabbing somebody – for instance, if the accused left home with a sharp knife and located and stabbed somebody, this would be categorised as GBH with intent.  It may involve broken ribs, substantial loss of blood requiring a transfusion or other lengthy treatment.

Hitting somebody with a baseball bat – to illustrate this, if an arm or rib is fractured or there is a wound.

Knocking down a police officer and driving over them – without a doubt, this is a serious offence and could result in a heavy sentence of around nine years.

Using a broken bottle to hit somebody in the face – undoubtedly, this is a serious offence and would result in imprisonment for around nine years.

Kicking the head of another person – obviously, a lot of physical and mental damage could be caused by this act. A prison sentence in accordance with the severity of the outcome would be issued.

In some cases, people are accused of something that they haven’t done. If you are charged in error, or correctly being accused, it’s critical that you get in contact with a legal professional. The legal professional will work with you on either finding a way for the case to be dismissed or to craft a strong defence.

More about grievous bodily harm offences

The different classifications and terms of grievous bodily harm offences are detailed below.

The seriousness of any grievous bodily harm offence is classified by the level of harm caused.

When classified as being committed with intent, the crime can even carry as much as 16 years imprisonment. The same crime, when classified as committed without intent, comes with a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Grievous bodily harm or GBH is severe physical harm which may result in broken limbs or even psychiatric injury. GBH can be committed by wounding with or without intent to cause GBH.

What’s more, when an offence falls under the ‘committed unlawfully and maliciously’ category, it means that there is no defence such as force used for preventing, crime, self-defence, defence of another or property.

Moreover, when the term wounding is applied, it means that the skin has been broken either externally or internally.

Section 18 is applied when grievous bodily harm has been done with the intent to cause severe injury, or wounding is used. If a weapon was involved this makes the offence graver.

Section 20 is when it’s grievous bodily harm without intent. For example, a person punched somebody, and they fell and caused a wound or severe injury.

Whatever the circumstances, this is a very uncomfortable and concerning situation to be in. You and your role in the offence will be investigated, and this is likely to lead to you being required to attend court.

Most importantly, it’s recommended that you engage a skilled criminal solicitor who can begin to prepare a strong defence to give you the best possible outcome.

The following is extracted from the Sentencing Council’s guidelines on culpability factors when deciding on sentencing for grievous bodily harm offences.

Factors indicating higher culpability

Statutory aggravating factors

  • Offence racially or religiously aggravated
  • Offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility to the victim based on his or her sexual orientation (or presumed sexual orientation)
  • Offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility to the victim based on the victim’s disability (or presumed disability)

Other aggravating factors

  • A significant degree of premeditation
  • Use of weapon or weapon equivalent (for example, shod foot, headbutting, use of acid, use of animal)
  • Intention to commit more serious harm than actually resulted from the offence
  • Deliberately causes more harm than is necessary for commission of offence
  • Deliberate targeting of vulnerable victim
  • Leading role in group or gang
  • Offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility based on the victim’s age, sex, gender identity (or presumed gender identity)

Factors indicating lower culpability

  • Subordinate role in group or gang
  • A greater degree of provocation than normally expected
  • Lack of premeditation
  • Mental disorder or learning disability, where linked to commission of the offence
  • Excessive self defence

What weapons might be used in Grievous Bodily Harm offences?

The following weapons are typically used in Grievous Bodily Harm offences:

  • Bottles
  • Knives
  • Throwing acid
  • Feet used to kick
  • Teeth for biting

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the grievous bodily harm sentence?

When the sentence for a GBH conviction is decided, several elements are considered in each case. In brief, there will be consideration of the injury, the intent to harm behind the injury, the level of violence and what the previous offending history is of the accused.

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following are some of the other factors considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Your previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was originally legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any serious medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents
  • There may also be an opportunity to be handed a reduced sentence with a guilty plea

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for grievous bodily harm with a guilty plea?

In recent years, a number of changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

  • ‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.
  • If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.
  • After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten percent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.
  • If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s important for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of the grievous bodily harm offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of an offence. These are extra elements that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that affect a dependent’s finances, property or activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of grievous bodily harm include:

  • Compensation for victim
  • Restraint orders
  • Confiscation orders

As part of your investigation, you may have weapons seized, or your communication devices if they can provide the prosecutors with evidence that they can use against you.

In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of grievous bodily harm, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

Our Criminal Solicitors have been defending Grievous Bodily Harm Charges for more than 30 years, having achieved significant and substantial acquittals. We take a very pro-active approach to protecting our clients. We don’t believe in a re-active attitude when there is so much at stake.

How we defend Grievous Bodily Harm prosecutions

We are experts at developing strong defences and capturing all evidence that can be used in your defence. The prosecutor’s case will be scrutinised and so will any CCTV evidence that has been produced. Our knowledge, expertise and experience will challenge the admissibility and legality of your case and evidence.

Any unlawfully obtained evidence will be contested, as will the credibility of witnesses be challenged. Any evidence that can be used to defend you will be collected whether this means knocking on doors, looking for witnesses or trawling through CCTV material from third parties. Our criminal solicitors will do what is required for the development of a case strategy.

Our solicitors will support you and be at your side for every step of the way. Your case is likely to be heard in the Crown Court. To assist you, we will engage a Barrister who not only specialises in violent crimes but is proactive and determined to win and achieve the best possible outcome.

Many people come to us for help when they are charged with grievous bodily harm. We know the law inside and out and will look to create the strongest defence.

It’s critical that you are appropriately represented by a legal professional as soon as you find out that you’re being charged or accused of grievous bodily harm.

What will happen when I instruct a Grievous Bodily Harm lawyer?

When you contact us to instruct us to your lawyer in your grievous bodily harm case, we will engage one of our violent crime’s lawyers. Our criminal solicitors have achieved substantial and significant acquittals during 30 years of working in this area of legal defence.

With regards to defending our clients, our approach is recognised for being very pro-active.  When you contact us to instruct us to be your lawyer in your grievous bodily harm or GBH case, we will contact the police to find out more about why you are being accused. We can then work with you to find a way to provide you with defence.

You will feel a lot more at ease about the situation as you’ll know that we are handling it for you. We have a specialist team who are very up to date on assault laws.

Arrest & Interview

If you have been arrested and taken to the police station, it’s imperative to not attend the police interview without being accompanied by a qualified legal professional. The aim of the police is to prosecute you and gain a conviction.

The police are trained to ask questions that may lead you to incriminating yourself. They often hold back vital evidence, so that you don’t know what they do and don’t know. By hiring a competent criminal lawyer with experience in grievous bodily harm, you can give yourself an advantage.

A lawyer has the right to ask the police if they are holding further evidence against you. They can also put the police under pressure to bring the investigation into you to a conclusion so that you can return to your everyday life. In addition, the lawyer will guide you with what you should and shouldn’t say to protect yourself against being convicted.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today.

In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.

Please Contact Us and ask to speak to our criminal lawyers or experts in grievous bodily harm offence solicitors to arrange a meeting in person, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can WhatsApp us from the link you will find at the bottom banner if you open this page on your mobile phone device.

Get in touch with us now for possession of grievous bodily harm legal help.


  • Responsive

    A legal expert will consult you within 24 hours of making an enquiry.

  • Empathetic

    We will always treat you with trust, understanding and respect.

  • Specialised

    Your case will be handled by an expert who specialises in your type of offence.

  • Proactive

    We will take early action to end proceedings as soon as it is practically and legally possible to do so.

  • Engaged

    You will be kept updated on your case at all times. We will provide a named contact available to answer your questions.

  • Caring

    We understand this is a difficult and stressful time for you and your family. Our team will support you every step of the way.

  • Tenacious

    We will never give up on your case. We fight tirelessly to get you the best possible outcome.

Google Rating
Based on 346 reviews


Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.