4.2.2 Wounding and GBH Lecture
Grievous bodily harm (GBH) and Wounding are the most serious of the non-fatal offences against the person, charged under s.18 and s.20 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 (OAPA 1861).
1.0 Type of Harm
To understand the charges under each section first the type of harm encompassed by these charges must be established.
DPP v Smith  AC 290 explained that GBH should be given its ordinary and natural meaning.
JJC v Eisenhower  QB 331 defines wounding as the breaking of both layers of the external skin: the dermis and the epidermis.
2.0 Section 20
Section 20 of the Offence Against the Persons Act provides:
“Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously wound or inflict any grievous bodily harm upon any other person, either with or without any weapon or instrument, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof”
2.1 Actus Reus
The actus reus of this offence can be broken down as follows:
•(i) Wound, OR; (ii) inflict GBH
•on another person
2.2 Mens Rea
The mens rea for the s.20 offence is ‘maliciously’.
Following the case law, it can be properly stated that the mens rea of ‘maliciously’ is in other words, a foresight by the defendant of a risk of some harm occurring.
2.3 Charging and Sentencing
This offence is triable either. It carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.
3.0 Section 18
Section 18 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 provides:
“Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously by any means whatsoever wound or cause any grievous bodily harm to any person, with intent to do some grievous bodily harm to any person, or with intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainer of any person, shall be guilty of felony”
3.1 Actus Reus
The actus reus for the offence can be broken down as follows:
•(i) wound or (ii) cause any GBH
•On another person
These criteria are satisfied in the same way as for the s.18 offence; the only difference being in relation to the GBH which can be ‘caused’ rather than ‘inflicted’.
3.2 Mens Rea
•(i) Intention to do some grievous bodily harm or (ii) with intention to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainment of any person.
3.3 Charging and Sentencing
The offence is indictable only. The s.18 offence carries a maximum life imprisonment sentence.
All of the usual defences are available in relation to a charge of GBH. With regards to consent, R v Brown  1 AC 212 and Attorney General’s Reference no. 6 of 1980 have established that a person may give valid consent to GBH, but only where it is in the public interest.
5.0 Discussion for Reform
In order to address the many issues identified with the provisions, the Home Office presented a new draft OAPA Bill in 1998.
Despite this there remains no change and the OAPA 1861 remains good law.
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