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Intent to cause grievous bodily harm

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Contact Armstrong Legal:
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555

John Sutton
Craig Robinson
Andrew Tiedt
Andrew Fraser
Russell Boyd
Mariah Maltezos
Sarah Marinovic
Michael Hempsall
Will Del Din
Will Del Din
Trudie Cameron

In NSW, the charge of Intent to Cause Grievous Bodily Harm charge carries a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment. People are charged with this offence if they assault someone with the intent to cause, and do cause, a very serious injury.

If you are convicted of the offence, it will appear on your criminal record and the court can impose any of the following penalties:


94% of people were sentenced to a prison with the most lenient sentence being a suspended prison sentence. The most common term of imprisonment is 6 years.


What does 'grievous bodily harm' mean?

The Crimes Act defines GBH as 'any permanent or serious disfiguring of the person, the destruction of a foetus and any grievous bodily disease'. The law requires the injury to be 'really serious', but not necessarily permanent, long lasting or life threatening. Whether an injury amounts to GBH is to be determined by the court on a case by case basis.

The prosecution and defence regularly disagree on whether a particular injury actually amounts to GBH or whether it falls within the scope of the less serious charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. This issue is then determined by the court.

Some examples of injuries that the court has found to constitute GBH include:

  • Brain damage;
  • Jaw and skull fractures;
  • Infecting someone with HIV;
  • Severe lacerations that require a large number of stitches, nerve reconstruction and/or surgery;
  • Causing a mother to lose her foetus; and
  • Facial fractures and laceration of the right ear requiring steel plates and screws, causing ongoing headaches and continuing treatment.

Some examples of injuries that the court has found to constitute GBH include:

  • Uncomplicated fractures of the arms or legs;
  • Facial fractures which require minor surgery with relatively short recover times; and
  • Cuts and lacerations.

What Court will hear your matter?

The charge is strictly indictable which means that it will be finalised in the District or Supreme Court.

What must the prosecution prove?

To be convicted of the offence, the prosecution must establish beyond reasonable doubt that:

  • You caused a person to sustain an injury;
  • That the injury amounted to grievous bodily harm; and
  • You intended to cause grievous bodily harm.

Can I defend a charge of Intent to Cause Grievous Bodily Harm?

The most common ways to defend this charge include:

  • To maintain your innocence if you did not commit the offence;
  • To argue that the resulting injury is not so serious to amount to GBH;
  • To argue that you did not intend to cause GBH; or
  • So raise self-defence, necessity or duress as the reason for causing GBH.

What is a 'standard non-parole period'?

Certain offences have a standard non-parole period. Intent to Cause Grievous Bodily Harm is one of them. A standard non-parole period is a set period of time that a person must spend in prison before they can be released to parole prior to their sentence ending. The court uses the standard period as a starting point when determining the sentence for someone convicted of Intent to Cause Grievous Bodily Harm. The court then looks at whether there are reasons to set a shorter or longer period.

What is the standard non-parole period for Intent to Cause Grievous Bodily Harm?

The standard non-parole period for Intent to Cause Grievous Bodily Harm under s 33 of the Crimes Act is 7 years.


Types of penalties:

Jail for Intent to cause grievous bodily harm charge: This is the most serious penalty for the charge of Intent to cause grievous bodily harm charge and involves full time detention in a correctional facility. Read more.

Intensive correction order for Intent to cause grievous bodily harm charge (ICO): This option has replaced periodic detention. The court can order you to comply with a number of conditions, such as attending counselling or treatment, not consuming alcohol, complying with a curfew and performing community service. Read more.

Suspended sentence for Intent to cause grievous bodily harm charge: This is a jail sentence that is suspended upon you entering into a good behaviour bond. Provided the terms of the good behaviour bond are obeyed the jail sentence will not come into effect. A suspended sentence is only available for sentences of imprisonment of up to two years. Read more.

Community service order for Intent to cause grievous bodily harm charge (CSO): This involves either unpaid work in the community at a place specified by probation and parole or attendance at a centre to undertake a course, such as anger management. In order to be eligible for a CSO you have to be assessed by an officer of the probation service as suitable to undertake the order. Read more.

Good behaviour bond for Intent to cause grievous bodily harm charge: This is an order of the court that requires you to be of good behaviour for a specified period of time. The court will impose conditions that you will have to obey during the term of the good behaviour bond. The maximum duration of a good behaviour bond is five years. Read more.

Fines for Intent to cause grievous bodily harm charge: When deciding the amount of a fine for a use of prohibited drugs charge the magistrate or judge should consider your financial situation and your ability to pay any fine they set. Read more.

Section 10 for a use of Intent to cause grievous bodily harm charge: avoiding a criminal record. Normally, when you plead guilty to a criminal offence, the court imposes a penalty and records a conviction. If the court records a conviction, you will have a criminal record. However, if we can convince the court not to convict you, there will be no penalty of any type and no criminal record. In all criminal cases, the court has the discretion not to convict you, but to give you a Section 10 dismissal instead. Read more.


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If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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