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Assault & Grievous Bodily Harm

Lawyers defending those facing assault allegations 

Olliers Solicitors are greatly experienced in defending allegations of all types of assault ranging from common assault to more serious grievous bodily harm allegations.

We often see assault charges arising out of everyday situations such as fights on nights out, assaults between family and friends and also the most serious assaults involving gang violence and use of weapons such as knives. Often allegations arise from domestic incidents and may overlap with family proceedings.

We are frequently contacted by clients who have been asked to attend a voluntary interview. Alternatively, if a client has already been interviewed we may be contacted once they are on bail or released under investigation.

The pre-charge stage of the case is absolutely crucial. It is the opportunity for the defence to go on the front foot adopting a proactive approach to pre-charge engagement with investigators.

At Olliers, we will always look to make successful representations against charge and prevent clients from being prosecuted in the first place something we discuss in more detail here.

Assault offences are set out in the Offences against the Person Act 1861. The more serious allegations of assault will be dealt with in the Crown Court. 

Section 39 Assault (Common assault/battery/assault by beating)

A Section 39 assault is the catch-all term for common assault, battery and assault by beating. They are the least serious form of assault and are when there is an assault but no injury. Strictly speaking, a common assault is when there has been no actual contact and the victim has been ‘caused to apprehend immediate unlawful violence.’ A battery or assault by beating is when there has been contact but no injuries caused.

For offences of a domestic nature click here to read more.

Section 47 Assault – Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)

The offence is committed when a person assaults another, thereby causing Actual Bodily Harm (ABH). This can mean a bruise or a minor graze. 

Section 47 Assault is an either way offence which means it can be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court, most often we see cases being dealt with at the Crown Court. 

In the Crown Court, the offence carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment. There are sentencing guidelines for all assault offences and our solicitors will be able to advise you where your case falls within those guidelines.

Section 20 Assault – Unlawful Wounding/Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)

Section 20 Assault involves grievous (or really serious) bodily harm or a wound. 

This offence is committed when a person unlawfully and maliciously, either wounds another person; or inflicts grievous bodily harm upon another person.

A wound means a break of the skin but a charge under this section reflects a serious wound such as injury resulting in permanent disability, loss of sensory function, broken bones, injuries which cause substantial loss of blood, or serious psychiatric injury.

It is an either way offence which means it can be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court, most often we see cases being dealt with at the Crown Court. It carries a maximum penalty on indictment of five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. 

Section 18 Assault – Wounding/Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) with intent

The most serious offence of violence is Section 18 grievous bodily harm which can also be known as wounding with intent. This offence is indictable only, which means it can only be dealt with in the Crown Court. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

The difference between an offence of section 18 assault and section 20 is one of intent. Factors that may suggest the intent necessary for section 18 assault include whether the assault was planned, a weapon had been deliberately chosen or prior threats had been made. 

It is very important that you seek the advice of a specialist solicitor should you find yourself facing a charge of grievous bodily harm. The stakes are high and your defence team will be proactive in preparing your case to provide you with the best chance of success whether that be taking your case to trial if you have a defence available to you or obtaining the best possible outcome should you wish to plead guilty to an offence.  


The most common defence to a charge of assault is self defence. Our solicitors will be able to advise you whether a defence of self defence is available to you based on their expert knowledge. It is also important to have a specialist solicitor from the outset who may be able to negotiate with the prosecution about the charges you face and whether a lesser charge could be considered by the prosecution. 

Assault Sentencing Guidelines

The Sentencing Council have sentencing guidelines for offences of violence. These take into account the harm sustained and the culpability of the offender. They also take into account any aggravating circumstances of the offence and personal mitigation of a defendant.

It can be hard to navigate your way through the guidelines and our solicitors will be able to explain the categories to you and where your case may fall should you be convicted of an offence. 

Recent Assault Cases

  • R v G, Minshull Street Crown Court 2019, The defendant faced allegations of S.18 assault following a stabbing. After lengthy negotiations between the defence and prosecution the prosecution accepted a plea to a lesser offence of s.20 assault and the defendant was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment.
  • R v B, Manchester Crown Court, 2019. Represented a defendant acquitted following trial for offences of S.18 Assault, S.20 Assault and Possession of an offensive weapon.
  • R v M, 2019. Olliers were successful in the Court of Appeal in reducing a sentence imposed for a s.18 assault involving a stabbing in custody from an extended sentence to a fixed determined sentence.
  • R v H, Manchester Crown Court, 2019. The defendant faces charges of s.18 assault. Olliers were successful in negotiations with the prosecution and the charges were reduced to s.20 assault. The defendant was ultimately sentenced to a suspended sentence order. 
  • R v B, Manchester Crown Court 2018. Olliers were successful in securing a suspended sentence of imprisonment for a person accused of s.18 assault involving the use of a vehicle. Mental Health issues were present which were examined by the instruction a medical expert which assisted in securing the outcome for the defendant.
  • R v D, Manchester Crown Court 2019. Olliers were able to negotiate a reduction in charges from s.18 assault to s.20 assault. Defendant received a term of imprisonment.
  • R v B, Manchester Crown Court 2018. Defendant charged with two offences of s18 assault following a fight between rival gang members. Expert evidence was obtained which highlighted discrepancies in the evidence presented which led to the acquittal of the defendant on all charges.
  • R v C, Manchester Crown Court 2017. Olliers assisted in securing a suspended sentence following a guilty plea by a defendant facing a charge of s.20 assault where a young child was injured.

Specialist Assault Lawyers

Olliers provides specialist advice and representation throughout England and Wales. We are the 2022 Manchester Legal Awards Small Firm of the Year and are ranked as a top-tier criminal firm in the current editions of the Legal 500 and Chambers Directory.

If you are facing an allegation of assault you will require specialist advice and you should contact our proactive and approachable team. They will apply their expert knowledge to your matter and will guide you through all aspects of your case.

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