Grievous Bodily Harm (WA)
Western Australian criminal law includes several offences involving grievous bodily harm. Grievous bodily harm is a serious physical injury. It is referred to in some other states and territories as ‘serious harm.’
Offences involving grievous bodily harm (GBH) in WA are governed by the Criminal Code Act and the Road Traffic Act 1974. They can attract lengthy terms of imprisonment and, if committed under particular circumstances, are subject to a mandatory minimum sentencing regime.
What is grievous bodily harm?
The WA Criminal Code Act defines grievous bodily harm as any bodily injury of such a nature as to endanger or be likely to endanger life or to cause, or be likely to cause, permanent injury to health. This includes serious burns, broken bones and permanent disabilities, such as loss of hearing or loss of use of a limb.
Injuries that do not amount to grievous bodily harm include minor cuts, bruising, and fractures.
Doing grievous bodily harm
Under section 297 of the Criminal Code, a person who unlawfully does grievous bodily harm to another person is liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years. If the offence is committed under aggravating circumstances or while stealing a motor vehicle, the offender is liable to imprisonment for up to 14 years.
The Western Australian criminal law imposes mandatory minimum sentences for offences committed in certain circumstances.
Under this regime, when GBH is caused by an adult offender in the course of an aggravated home burglary, the court must impose a term of at least 75% of the maximum penalty. If GBH is caused by an adult in prescribed circumstances, the court must impose a term of imprisonment of at least 12 months that is not suspended.
When GBH is caused by a juvenile in the course of an aggravated home burglary, the court must impose a term of imprisonment or detention of at least 3 years that is not suspended. If GBH is caused by a juvenile in prescribed circumstances, the court must impose a term of imprisonment or detention of at least 3 months that is not suspended.
Act intended to cause grievous bodily harm
Under section 294 of the Criminal Code Act, a person who does certain acts with intent to cause grievous bodily harm or to maim, disfigure, or disable a person or to prevent the lawful arrest or detention of a person is guilty of a crime and liable to imprisonment for up to 20 years. These acts include wounding, causing an explosion or doing an act that is likely to result in a person having a serious disease.
Culpable driving causing GBH
In WA, under section 284 of the Criminal Code Act, culpable driving of a conveyance causing GBH can attract a penalty of seven years imprisonment (if dealt with on indictment) or three years imprisonment and a fine of up to $36,000 (if dealt with summarily). However, it is important to note that this provision does not apply to the driving of a motor vehicle. A conveyance means a vessel or an aircraft.
A person found guilty under this provision in relation to the navigation of a vessel must be sentenced to a term of at least two years imprisonment.
It is a defence to a charge under this provision if the grievous bodily harm was not caused by the manner in which the conveyance was driven.
Dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm
Under section 59 of the Road Traffic Act, a person is guilty of a crime if they drive a motor vehicle that is involved in an incident that causes grievous bodily harm to another person while being under the influence of alcohol or drugs or while driving in a manner dangerous to the public. The penalty for this offence is imprisonment for up to 14 years where the offender was affected by drugs or alcohol and imprisonment for up to seven years and a fine of any amount as well as disqualification from driving for at least two years.
If this offence is dealt with summarily (in the Magistrates Court) the maximum penalty that applied is imprisonment for three years and a fine of up to 720 penalty units and disqualification from driving for at least two years.
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