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Recklessly Causing Grievous Bodily Harm

Recklessly causing grievous bodily harm is an offence under section 35 of the Crimes Act 1900.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment, or 14 years if the offence is committed in company.

Recklessly causing grievous bodily harm is a “Table 1” offence, which means it can be dealt with in the Local Court unless the Prosecution or Defence elects to have the matter dealt with in the District Court. If the matter is finalised in the Local Court, the maximum penalty is 2 years’ imprisonment.

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    What must the prosecution prove?

    To be found guilty of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, the Prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
    – The accused person caused grievous bodily harm to another person; and
    – The accused person was reckless as to causing actual bodily harm to that person or any other person.
    – If the offence is committed “in company”, there must also be at least one other person present who shares the common purpose to commit the offence.

    “Recklessness” is a lower level of culpability than intention. It means that the accused person foresaw the possibility that actual bodily harm could be caused to another person but continued to act anyway. It is important to note that the accused person only needs to realise the possibility of actual bodily harm, which is a lower level of injury than grievous bodily harm and can include an injury as small as a bruise or scratch.

    What is “Grievous Bodily Harm”?

    Grievous bodily harm means ‘really serious bodily injury’ (Swan v The Queen [2016] NSWCCA 79, [57]). Among other injuries, it includes:

    1. 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;
    2. Any permanent or serious disfiguring of the person; and
    3. 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 are the possible defences?

    One of the most common defences to this offence is self-defence.

    It is also often argued that the injuries caused do not amount to grievous bodily harm.

    Other standard criminal defences also apply.

    Will I go to jail?

    Upon conviction for this offence, an offender can be imprisoned for up to 2 years in the Local Court or 10 or 14 years in the District Court, depending on whether the offence is committed in company.
    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.