Wounding/Grievous Bodily Harm

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.

To be found guilty of recklessly causing GBH, the Prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. The accused person wounded or caused GBH to another person; and

2. 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.

Grievous bodily harm means ‘really serious bodily injury’ (Swan v The Queen [2016] NSWCCA 79, [57]). 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.

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 [2003] 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 to cause GBH, for example.

Other criminal defences such as duress and self-defence also apply.