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Reckless grievous bodily harm

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Contact Armstrong Legal:
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555

John Sutton

In NSW, Reckless Grievous Bodily Harm carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Where the offence is committed in company with another person, the maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment. Individuals are charged where a person casues injury to another person causing Grievous Bodily Harm.

In NSW, a court can impose any of the following penalties for a reckless grievous bodily harm charge.


THE OFFENCE OF RECKLESS GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM

The offence of Reckless Grievous Bodily Harm is found in section 35(2) of the Crimes Act 1900 which states:

A person who:

  • Causes Grievous Bodily Harm to any person, and
  • Is Reckless as to causing Actual Bodily Harm to that or any other person, is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty: Imprisonment 10 years

THE OFFENCE OF RECKLESS GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM - IN COMPANY

The offence of Reckless Grievous Bodily Harm – in company is found in section 35(1) of the Crimes Act 1900 which states:

A person who, in the company of another person or persons:

  • Causes Grievous Bodily Harm to any person, and
  • Is Reckless as to causing Actual Bodily Harm to that or any other person, is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty: Imprisonment 14 years.

WHAT IS GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM?

Section 4 of the Crimes Act 1900 defines Grievous Bodily Harm 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 Grievous Bodily Harm is to be determined on a case by case basis.

There is often contention between the prosecution and the defence as to whether a particular injury amounts to Grievous Bodily Harm or whether it falls within the scope of the less serious charge of Reckless Wounding.

Some examples of injuries that the court has found to constitute Grievous Bodily Harm include:

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

Some examples of injuries that the court has found NOT to constitute Grievous Bodily Harm include:

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

WHAT DOES RECKLESS MEAN?

  • The Crimes Act 1900 does not define Recklessness.
  • Where the charge refers to the harm inflicted as Grievous Bodily Harm, the Crown must prove that the accused at least foresaw the possibility of the infliction of Grievous Bodily Harm resulting from his or her intentional act: Blackwell v R (2011) 208 A Crim R 392.

WHAT DOES IN COMPANY MEAN?

If the offence is committed in company, this means that it will have been committed with another person or persons present.

WHAT ACTIONS MAY CONSTITUTE RECKLESS GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM?

Examples of Reckless Grievous Bodily Harm:

  • Throwing a rock at incoming traffic, which results in extensive injuries to the driver;
  • Letting of fireworks in a crowded area, which results in serious disfiguring burns for someone in the crowd;

WHAT THE POLICE MUST PROVE

To convict you of a Reckless Grievous Bodily Harm charge, the police must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You caused Grievous Bodily Harm to a person;
  • The act was done Recklessly; and/or
  • That it was committed with another person or persons present.

They will also need to prove that you were the person who committed the reckless Grievous Bodily Harm offence.

POSSIBLE DEFENCES FOR RECKLESS GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM

Possible defences to a reckless Grievous Bodily Harm charge include but are not limited to:

WHICH COURT WILL HEAR YOUR MATTER?

Reckless Grievous Bodily Harm is a Table 1 offence and is to be dealt with by the Local Court, unless you or the prosecution elect for the matter to be heard in the District Court on indictment. The summary disposal of these offences in the Local Court carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.


Types of penalties:

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

Intensive correction order for a reckless 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.

Periodic detention for a reckless grievous bodily harm charge (commonly known as weekend detention): This form of imprisonment ceased to be a sentencing option in October 2010.

Suspended sentence for a reckless 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 a reckless 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 a reckless 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 a reckless grievous bodily harm charge: When deciding the amount of a fine for a reckless grievous bodily harm 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 reckless 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.


where to next?

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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