ABH - Actual Bodily Harm

The legislation that covers ABH offences dates back to 1861 and is quite vague. Unfortunately, that means being accused or charged with ABH can be confusing, so working with a solicitor skilled in this area is always a smart idea. 

Under Section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, ABH or Actual Bodily Harm is punishable by ‘penal servitude’ or prison as we know it today. What this means is that according to the law, someone convicted of ABH could do prison time. However, a prison sentence is not always imposed which will be discussed further down in this post). 

Bodily harm is defined as physical harm to another person’s body, or health. Although it is worth noting that for offences of ABH, the harm does not need to be serious or long-lasting. 

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Examples of ABH

To help clarify whether an offence is classed as ABH, there are several examples below: 

Examples of ABH include:

  • Giving someone a black eye 
  • Punching someone in the face, dislocating their nose
  • Pushing someone in a public place, leading to them tripping over, and bruising their arm, 
  • Hitting someone with a blunt object, causing bruising and pain 
  • Biting someone, causing bruising but not breaking the skin
  • Injuring someone where they receive mild skin scratches to the skin
Affray examples
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Indeed for offences that result in injuries that are serious and long-lasting, there is another classification of offence known as GBH or Grievous Bodily Harm. Both ABH and GBH are considered violent and serious crimes by the UK courts, however, GBH is the most serious of the two and so incurs harsher penalties, including life sentences for those who intended to cause GBH when they offended. 

ABH Sentencing Guidelines

While sentencing for ABH is less than for GBH it can still be considerable. However, because ABG is an either-way offence, the punishment imposed for ABH will depend on whether the case is heard at the Crown Court or The Magistrates Court. 

Sentencing For ABH In The Magistrates’ Court?

Less serious cases of ABH will be heard in the Magistrates Court. The longest prison sentence this court can impose is 6 months. The court may also impose a fine or an unpaid work order. However, if the Magistrates Court believes that the punishments they can set are not sufficient for the nature of the offence, they can refer the case to the Crown Court which has stronger sentencing powers. 

Sentencing For ABH In The Crown Court?

More serious cases of ABH are heard in the Crown Court. The Crown Court can impose a sentence of a maximum of five years in prison for a guilty ABH verdict. However, the Crown Court is also able to impose no prison term and only a fine, or a combination of the two.

Affray sentencing
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