What is Grievous Bodily Harm?

Grievous bodily harm

The offence of Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) is a crime pursuant to section 320 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld).  It is an assault where the injury caused amounts to ‘grievous bodily harm’.

Grievous bodily harm is defined in section 1 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) as:

  1. The loss of a distinct part or organ of the body; or
  2. Serious disfigurement; or
  3. Any bodily injury of such a nature that, if left untreated, would endanger or likely to endanger life, or cause or be likely to cause permanent injury to health;

Whether or not treatment is or could have been available.

What must the prosecution prove?

The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. The accused did the act or omission relied on as constituting the offence
  2. That act or omission caused or was a substantial cause of grievous bodily harm to the complainant
  3. That the act or omission done by the accused to cause grievous bodily harm was unlawful

Essentially, they must prove that you caused an injury that amounts to grievous bodily harm by assaulting a person unlawfully.  For example, you punched a person and broke their jaw.

What defences/excuses are available?

Possible defences/excuses that could be raised in Queensland for the offence of GBH include (but are not limited to):

  • Accident
  • Self-defence
  • Defence of another

Importantly, a person charged with this offence cannot raise the defence of provocation, regardless of the circumstances leading up to the assault.  A person cannot consent to an assault if the injury sustained amounts to grievous bodily harm.

What is the maximum penalty?

The charge must be dealt with on Indictment in the District Court so while proceedings will commence in the Magistrates Court, a person can not have the matter finalised by way of a sentence or trial in that jurisdiction.

The maximum penalty in Queensland for an offence of GBH is 14 years imprisonment.

In the following situations, there is also a mandatory minimum penalty that applies:

  1. When a person is convicted of committing the offence in a public place whilst adversely affected by intoxicating substance.
    1. Minimum penalty – In combination with any other penalty that may be imposed by the court, a community service order of up to 240 hours must be ordered.
  2. When a person is convicted of committing the offence and the serious organised crime circumstance of aggravation applies
    1. Minimum penalty – 7 years imprisonment automatically imposed cumulatively on the sentence the court decides. The 7 years imprisonment must be served wholly in prison, on top of whatever other penalty is set by the court.

This post contains general advice only and is not intended as legal advice.