Common Assault, Actual Bodily Harm and Grievous Bodily Harm

Common assault, actual bodily harm (ABH) and grievous bodily harm (GBH) are criminal offences under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (‘CJA’) and the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

Common assault

What is common assault?

The offence of common assault under section 39 CJA is committed when someone assaults another person or commits a battery.

  • A battery is the application of unlawful force, for instance, a push or slap, or spitting at someone.
  • An assault is when someone makes another person fear the use of immediate force against them. This could be a raised fist, or running a finger across a throat. Physical contact is not necessary for common assault to take place.

Will there be a prison sentence?

Common assault carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and/or a fine or community order. A prison sentence is generally reserved for cases where serious injury was caused, and higher culpability is present. The offender will have higher culpability where, for instance, he or she has previous convictions or there are aggravating factors, such as the attack being racially motivated, the assault was premediated, or the victim was vulnerable.

In other cases, a fine and community order may be the outcome.

Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)

What is Actual Bodily Harm?

Assault causing actual bodily harm (ABH) is a criminal offence under Section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act.

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For more information on:

  • Will there be a prison sentence?
  • Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)
  • What is Grievous Bodily Harm?
  • Will there be a prison sentence?