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Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (often abbreviated to Assault O.A.B.H. or more commonly known as ABH) is a statutory offence of aggravated assault in England and Wales, Northern Ireland.
In England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland, the offence is created by section 47 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861:
“ 47. Whosoever shall be convicted upon an indictment of any assault occasioning actual bodily harm shall be liable … to be kept in penal servitude … ”
It encompasses those assaults which result in substantial injuries, typically requiring a degree of medical treatment of the victim.
If you are worried about being prosecuted for Actually Bodily Harm (ABH) after reading this article and you would like to discuss your concerns in complete confidentiality please contact your nearest London office to arrange an appointment.
Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) charging standards
The CPS has said that, by way of example, it considers the following injuries to be actual bodily harm and to be sufficiently serious that they could not be adequately reflected by a charge of common assault and ought normally to be prosecuted under section 47:
Causing any of these injuries (by assault or battery) would constitute the actus reus of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. The CPS has advised its prosecutors that grazes, minor bruising, swelling, superficial cuts or a black eye should normally be prosecuted as common assault.
Mode of Trial
In England and Wales, assault occasioning actual bodily harm is triable either way.
In England and Wales, a person guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding the prescribed sum, or to both.
Racially or religiously aggravated offence
In England and Wales, section 29(1)(b) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c.37) creates the distinct offence of racially or religiously aggravated assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
This law was changed in 2003 and can now carry a sentence of up to life imprisonment.
Defendants convicted of a criminal offence can often be punished with a prison sentence.
Therefore, it is highly advisable and in your own interests that you receive legal advice from a solicitor who is an expert in criminal law if you have been charged with a criminal offence relating to ABH – i.e. speak to a specialist criminal solicitor.
Specialist criminal solicitors are very experienced in successfully defending criminal prosecutions because criminal law is their sole activity. They are likely to represent you better than a solicitor who does not have that experience or expertise – i.e. a general practice solicitor whose day-to-day activities might include family law and housing law as well as some criminal law.
Arrange an appointment to discuss your concerns with a specialist criminal solicitor at the earliest opportunity by contacting your nearest London office.