Malicious wounding or gbh under s.18

Where the defendant wounds or causes grievous bodily harm to the victim by any means.

We now turn to malicious wounding or grievous bodily harm under Section 18 Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which many recognise as being one of the more serious assaults.  At first sight there seems to be a striking resemblance between the two offences under Section 20 and offences under Section 18 but there are important differences. The distinction between charges under section 18 and section 20 is one of intent. 

The offence is committed when a person unlawfully and maliciously, with intent to do some grievous bodily harm, or with intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainer of any other person, either:

  • wounds another person; or
  • causes grievous bodily harm to another person.

The wording ‘wounding’ and ‘grievous bodily harm’ have similar meanings and we have already noted the apparent inconsistency in the law in this area in terms of the level of harm required. The nature of the attack or the harm may be relevant to establishing the necessary intent.

The maximum sentence under S18 is life imprisonment.

The actus reus happens where the defendant wounds or causes grievous bodily harm to the victim by any means.  On the face of it, causes widens the actus reus – more so than S20 where the courts have at times had to give consideration to the meaning of the word ‘inflicts’.

The mens rea consists of the defendant intending to cause grievous bodily harm or intending to resist arrest or prevent an arrest.

Intention is to be applied in a similar manner as for murder.  The courts have spent time considering what amounts to intention and the prosecution must show (in the absence of evidence of direct intention) that the defendant foresaw as a virtual certainty the consequence of his actions and that he realised the risk of serious harm.

Wounding/causing grievous bodily harm with intent, contrary to section 18 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

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