In Queensland, grievous bodily harm (GBH) under section 320 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) is a serious criminal offence that involves causing serious harm to another person.
What is grievous bodily harm?
Grievous bodily harm is defined in section 1 of the Criminal Code as any harm that results in:
- the loss of a distinct part or an organ of the body;
- serious disfigurement; or
- any bodily injury of such a nature that, if left untreated, would endanger or be likely to endanger life, or cause or be likely to cause permanent injury to health;
whether or not treatment is or could have been available.
What do the police have to prove?
To prove a charge of grievous bodily harm (GBH), the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant caused harm to the victim;
- The harm caused amounts to GBH (defined above).
The prosecution may present evidence such as medical reports, photographs, and witness statements to prove that the defendant caused the harm and that it meets the legal definition of GBH. The prosecution must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt for the defendant to be found guilty of GBH.
If the prosecution is unable to prove either of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant cannot be convicted of GBH. It is important to note that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the burden of proof rests on the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
What are the penalties for grievous bodily harm?
The penalties for grievous bodily harm (GBH) depend on the circumstances of the offence. The maximum penalties are:
- If the offender intentionally caused the harm, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
- If the harm was caused recklessly, the maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment.
In addition to imprisonment, the offender may also face fines, community service, and other penalties. They may also be ordered to pay compensation to the victim for any expenses or losses resulting from the harm.
It is also worth noting that GBH is a serious offence in Queensland, and a conviction can have significant consequences for the offender, including a permanent criminal record and restrictions on future employment opportunities.
What are the defences to grievous bodily harm?
There are several defences that may be available in a criminal charge of grievous bodily harm (GBH) in Queensland. The following are some of the possible defences:
A person may be able to claim self-defence if they believed that they or someone else were in imminent danger of harm and the force they used was necessary and reasonable in the circumstances.
Please refer to section 271 and section 272 of the Criminal Code.
Defence of others
Similar to self-defence, a person may be able to claim defence of others if they believed that another person was in imminent danger of harm and the force they used was necessary and reasonable in the circumstances.
Please refer to section 273 of the Criminal Code.
The defence of accident may be available in a charge of grievous bodily harm (GBH) in Queensland if the defendant’s actions were unintentional and accidental. The defendant must show that the harm caused was the result of an accident and that they did not intend to cause the harm.
To successfully raise the defence of accident, the defendant must show that they took reasonable care to avoid causing harm, and that the harm was not a foreseeable consequence of their actions. For example, if the defendant was engaged in a lawful activity, such as a sport or recreational activity, and the harm was the result of an accidental collision or fall, the defence of accident may be available.
However, the defence of accident is not available if the defendant’s actions were reckless or if they were engaged in an illegal activity at the time of the offence. Additionally, if the defendant was grossly negligent or failed to take reasonable care to avoid causing harm, the defence of accident may not be available.
Please refer to section 23 of the Criminal Code.
If a person was suffering from a mental impairment at the time of the offence, they may be able to claim a defence of mental impairment if they did not know that their actions were wrong.
Please refer to section 27 of the Criminal Code.