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Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)

In Queensland, committing the offence of causing grievous bodily harm (GBH), whether intentionally or unlawfully, is very serious and if proven can lead to a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. GBH charges are indictable offences and therefore must be heard in the District Court of Queensland.


Section 320 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 makes it an offence to commit the act of inflicting GBH to another person. 

There are three types of GBH offences:

  • Intentionally causing grievous bodily harm;
  • Unlawfully doing grievous bodily harm; and
  • Dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.

Intentionally causing grievous bodily harm

Intentionally causing GBH is proven when the element of intent is proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution. It is the most serious of the three offences and will most likely result in a period of imprisonment.

Unlawfully doing grievous bodily harm

Proof of intent is not required to prove the criminal charge of unlawfully doing GBH. The prosecution does not necessarily need to prove that the defendant was the sole cause of the injury either.

Dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm

Dangerous driving causing GBH carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. For this charge to succeed, the prosecution must prove that:

  • the accused was driving a motor vehicle, or interfered with someone who was, and;
  • their driving, or interference, was dangerous, and;
  • as a result of their driving or interference, another person suffered grievous bodily harm.

Aggravating circumstances

Section 320 (3A) also states that circumstances of aggravation can also be alleged in connection with an offence under the Act. Circumstances of aggravation that can be alleged in relation to offences of causing GBH are:

  • that the accused was part of a criminal group;
  • that the act was committed in a public place or the accused was under the influence of an intoxicating substance; and
  • the act was deemed domestic violence.

If proven, aggravating factors can increase the length of the defendant’s sentence.


There are a number of defences that apply to a charge of causing GBH, such as self-defence and accident. The Act also outlines a number of other defences that may be advanced in response to a charge of grievous bodily harm.


Section 271 of the Queensland Criminal Code permits a person to use reasonable force to defend themselves physically, to defend another person or to defend their property. The defence of self-defence requires the accused to have acted in a way that was reasonable in the circumstances and for the conduct carried out in self-defence to have been proportionate to the threat faced. If a person reasonably defends themselves against an attack, the law recognises their right to do so.


A person may have a defence to a charge of GBH if the act was an accident. If the consequence couldn’t be foreseen or was not intended, the person may be eligible to advance this defence.


In Queensland, if a person is convicted of a grievous bodily harm offence, a court may impose one or more of the following penalties:

  • Jail 
  • Intensive Corrections Order;
  • Probation; and
  • Community Service Order.

The actual penalty an accused receives will depend on the circumstances of the matter including the seriousness of the offence and the individual defendant’s circumstances and background.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Samira Ashkar - Senior Associate - Sydney

This article was written by Samira Ashkar - Senior Associate - Sydney

Samira holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) from the University of Wollongong. She also has a Masters of Dispute Resolution from the University of Technology Sydney and has completed a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. Samira is admitted as a solicitor in New South Wales but is also highly experienced in Australian federal law areas...

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