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Home Violent Crimes: Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)


Actual bodily harm or ABH as it is more commonly referred to, is a slightly less serious offence than GBH. It is however, also a form of violent crime, an ABH assault which causes actual physical harm to the victim. In a nutshell therefore, an assault causing actual bodily harm is quite a serious charge even though it is slightly less so than GBH. For an ABH charge, the kind of injury the victim sustains is usually a substantial injury warranting medical attention. Loss of consciousness on account of an assault however temporary would be regarded as ABH by the law, as would bone fractures and other non-superficial cuts.

Other forms of injuries ranging from a ‘black eye’ to bruises, swelling and other minor injuries as a result of a bar brawl or scuffle for instance, will be regarded as common assault not warranting an ABH charge. If you are uncertain of the offence with which you have been or likely to be charged, you will be best advised to get in touch with us at the earliest for professional guidance. Also if you disagree with what you have been arrested for and believe that it should be the lesser offence of common assault as against ABH, give us a call today and let our dedicated criminal defence lawyers sort matters out in the most efficient manner. It is important, in case of any doubt, for some clarity to be provided here as to what constitutes an aggravated assault of ABH. If after reading this page, you remain doubtful as to the accuracy of the allegations you face, please call to speak to one of our highly experienced solicitors.

What is ABH?

ABH is a statutory offence of aggravated assault and was created by section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, hence the reference to is as Section 47 ABH. Assault has been held by the court from time immemorial as constituting part of the ingredients for the offence of ABH. The court believes that any act perpetuated by a defendant and through which he or she intentionally or recklessly applies unlawful force to the complainant is an assault.[1] ABH assault in this context also refers to battery.

Actual Bodily HarmActual Bodily Harm Often Ends Up with an Injury


In actual fact, although the term ‘assault’ is more commonly used in violent crime cases, injury such as GBH and ABH and other violent crimes are more likely to be committed as a result of battery rather than assault. There are certain factors which if present may potentially aggravate an ABH offence and accord it a higher level of seriousness which will be reflected in the sentencing. Such factors include where the assaulted person was attacked while carrying out their public facing duty, the victim is a minor or otherwise vulnerable person and the assailant someone in position of care over the vulnerable person or where the weapon used in the assault in one which can clearly cause grave harm.

The presence of any or a combination of these factors or similar ones will most likely increase the seriousness of the case and render defence a bit harder. Notwithstanding however, our many years of practice and experience are usually called upon in such cases and we are able, as a result, to deliver the best service possible to our clients regardless of the facts of the case. Unlike most other criminal offences, there is no requirement of mens rea for a charge of ABH. It can be committed either intentionally or recklessly. The law merely requires evidence of the fact that the defendant caused the actual bodily harm. If you have been charged with ABH, call our criminal law network in London today and you wil be taking a decisive step in the right direction.

Self Defence and other Defences

In the event that there is no evidence of guilty mind, the charge is either reduced or dropped. This is more likely to happen where a team of expert criminal defence solicitors such as ours, is able to prove to the court that their client acted in self defence. This is by far the most effective defence in ABH and GBH cases. A test will however be applied by the court as to the parity of the threat faced and the force employed in the defence thereof.

Apart from self defence, there are other defences upon which legal representation and ABH defence can be built. They include, as in the case of GBH, mistaken identity, and diminished responsibility or capacity, misadventure and accidental jostling amongst others. Deciding on the best approach and the ground on which to build defence has a lot to do with meticulous case preparation and an eagle eye or details. The circumstances of each case are usually different. Our solicitors have been in the dedicated business of defending clients facing criminal charges for many years. We are experts at what we do and advise our clients to allow us to put our combined skills and resources to work on their behalf.

There are several angles to consider in violent crime cases and the most important thing for an individual facing a violent crime allegation such as ABH is to remember is to seek legal advice as soon as possible. It is always in your best interest not to implicate yourself or others or to make matters worse than they already are. We understand that the first tendency in most cases, particularly where the client is innocent or has a solid ground of defence such as self defence, is to feel the need to explain their side to the police without legal assistance. After all, you are not guilty of the charge. This could end up doing more harm to the case than good. It is always best to leave these matters to legal experts. We will be happy to guide you through every step of the case and to provide you with excellent and constructive advice from inception to the conclusion of the case.

ABH Sentencing

Although ABH is said to be less serious than GBH, it nevertheless also attracts a prison term upon conviction on indictment. The maximum sentence for ABH is 5 years imprisonment. It is interesting to note that ABH cases can be decided before the Crown court or the Magistrate’s court where the defendant is not contesting the charge.  Sentencing upon summary conviction is significantly lower than on indictment. The sentencing for actual bodily harm charges, on summary conviction does not exceed a prison term of 6 months. A fine may be levied in lieu or indeed in addition to the prison term.

 Call Us Today!

The prospect of going to prison is hardly ever joyously accepted. This is why it is important that expert assistance is sought and secured before matters are out of hands. Even where you or your loved one, family member or friend is already being held in custody, it is never too late to reach out for help. If you or your family member/friend are unhappy with the level of professionalism and service received thus far from by the Duty Solicitor assigned to your case, it is very important that you either seek to make them realise how very important this case and your freedom are to you or that you seek a more efficient and more dedicated legal representation elsewhere. We will be happy to hear from you and to take over conduct of your matter from your Duty Solicitors in a seamless fashion. We will inform the CPS and other relevant bodies that we have taken over conduct.

[1]Per Lord Lane, in R v Williams (Gladstone), (1983) 78 Cr App R 276, [1984] Crim LR 163, CA


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