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grievous bodily harm (GBH)

Serious physical injury. Under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 there are several offences involving grievous bodily harm. It is an offence, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, to inflict (by direct acts) grievous bodily harm upon anyone with the intention of harming them (even only slightly); if the intention was merely to frighten the victim the defendant is guilty of *assault and *battery. It is an offence, punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, to cause grievous bodily harm to anyone with the intention of seriously injuring them or of resisting or preventing lawful arrest. 'Causing' in this offence includes indirect acts, such as pulling a chair away from a person so that he falls and breaks his arm. If a person intends to cause grievous bodily harm but his victim actually dies, he is guilty of murder, even though he did not intend to kill him. Causing grievous bodily harm may also be an element in some other offence, e.g. *burglary. The courts have said that judges should not attempt to define grievous bodily harm for the jury, but should leave it to them, in every case, to decide whether the harm caused was really serious. See also *wounding with intent.

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