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GBH, ABH, Assault, Wounding.
Offences against the person.

If you have been charged with any form of assault, contact Norrie Waite & Slater solicitors.

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Mounting a strong defence against any assault charge requires a firm of solicitors with the specialist knowledge and experience needed to give you the best possible chance of securing a favourable outcome. Our team has decades of combined experience in defending all types of assault charges, both at Magistrates and Crown Court.

Legal aid may be available to cover the costs of your legal defence.

Below is a description of the different types of assault charges and how they differ in the severity with which the Courts treat them. Click on a link to visit the relevant section.


The Offences against the Person Act  1861

The Offences against the person Act defines a number of different types of assault. They are listed here in decreasing order of the maximum penalty which can be imposed by the Courts.

Section 18 Assault – Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) – Wounding (with intent)
Section 20 Assault – Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) – Wounding (without intent)
Section 47 Assault – Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)
Section 39 Assault – Common Assault

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Section 18 Assault – Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) – Wounding (with intent)

Grievous Bodily Harm means ‘really serious bodily harm’, or wounding another person (wounding has a specific legal definition for these purposes.) To be guilty of a section 18 GBH offence the attacker must have had intent to cause grievous bodily harm. This is an important distinction when it comes to sentencing.

Section 18 assaults are always dealt with by the Crown Court (rather than the Magistrates Court) and can carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

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Section 20 Assault – Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) – Wounding (without intent)

If the attacker only intended to cause ‘some harm or pain’ rather than ‘really serious bodily harm’, then the offence is a section 20 assault. This is still classed as Grievous Bodily Harm, but is a less serious offence than a section 18 GBH assault.

Section 20 assaults carry a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and may be dealt with by either the Crown or Magistrates Court.

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Section 47 Assault – Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)

Actual bodily harm is an offence whereby harm has been caused, but the only intention of the attacker was to want to assault the victim. For this offence the prosecution do not need to show that the defendant intended to cause injury. If it can be shown that the defendant was negligent than that is sufficient. You can therefore be found guilty of a serious offence without having intention to commit it in the normal sense of the term. The prosecution therefore has only to prove that an assault was carried out together with proof of the fact that bodily harm was caused; they do not have to show that actual bodily harm was intended.

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Section 47 assaults are either way offences and may be dealt with in either the Crown or Magistrates Court. This offence carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment.

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Section 39 Assault – Common Assault

Common assault is the offence of either applying unlawful force on another person or of making them afraid that immediate force will be used against them. It is not necessary for there to be an injury for a common assault to have been carried out. There are in fact two offences under this section. The offence which arises out of the common law offence of assault is in fact a threat to cause injury. It the offence alleged is physical assault then the offence is described as an assault by beating.

Section 39 assaults are offences which can only be dealt with in the Magistrates Court. The maximum sentence is 6 months imprisonment. These offences are, however, dealt with by a fine or a community penalty.

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Our lawyers offer legal advice and representation at court or the police station on a private or legal aid basis. Legal aid is available in some areas of law only. Please see our pages on legal aid for more advice. We offer a free initial consultation in some areas of law. Personal Injury compensation claims can be conducted on a 'no win no fee' basis.