Wounding or causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) to any person with intent is an offence under section 33 of the Crimes Act 1900.
The offence carries a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment and cannot be dealt with in the Local Court.
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What the prosecution must prove
To be found guilty of recklessly causing GBH, the Prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused person wounded or caused GBH to another person; and
- The accused person intended to do one of the following:
Cause GBH to that person or another person; or
Resist or prevent his/her lawful arrest/detention; or
Resist or prevent the lawful arrest/detention of another person.
What is “Grievous Bodily Harm”?
Grievous bodily harm means ‘really serious bodily injury’ (Swan v The Queen  NSWCCA 79, ). Among other injuries, it includes:
- The destruction (other than in the course of a medical procedure) of the foetus of a pregnant woman, whether or not the woman suffers any other harm;
- Any permanent or serious disfiguring of the person; and
- Any grievous bodily disease.
It is often the subject of argument whether injuries suffered by a victim amount to grievous bodily harm or actual bodily harm.
What is “wounding”?
A wound involves the breaking or cutting of the interior layer of skin (called the dermis). Breaking only the outer layer of skin (epidermis) is not sufficient (R v Smith (1837) 8 Carrington and Payne 173).
A wound does not need to be caused by a weapon, such as a knife, and can include something as minor as a split lip (R v Shepherd  NSWCCA 351).
Because the Prosecution must prove every element of the offence, it is often argued that the accused person did not possess the required intention, for example, to cause GBH.
Other criminal defences such as duress and self-defence also apply.
Will I go to jail?
Upon conviction for this offence, an offender can be imprisoned for up to 25 years. However, the maximum penalty is reserved for the most serious offender. This is usually someone who has a history of criminal behaviour.
The penalty imposed will depend on a number of factors including:
- The extent of the injuries caused;
- The degree of violence or force used in causing those injuries; and
- Whether there were any aggravating features, such as whether the offence was committed in the home of the victim or in the presence of a child under 18 years of age.
- The offender’s personal circumstances will also be relevant.
For the full range of penalties that can be imposed for this offence, see our Sentencing Options page.