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Actual Bodily Harm (ABH, s47) explained.

2 January 2022

ABH (Actual Bodily Harm) Section 47 Assault

ABH is an offence for which a prison sentence is possible, but less likely to be given.

This is assault resulting in harm such as scratches, bruises etc. The only intention required is to want to apply unlawful force. Intention to cause an injury is not necessary to convict someone of this offence. So, for example, if a defendant pushes someone in an argument and that person then hits their head on a wall causing injury, even though there was no intention to cause the injury, the offence is made out as the intention to push the person is enough to show the application of unlawful force.

The maximum sentence for ABH is 5 years, and this offence can be dealt with in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. In reality, defendants will rarely receive sentences anywhere near 5 years for this offence, and defendants with no previous convictions will often not receive prison sentences.

However, even if prison is not an option, the damage caused to a defendant convicted of ABH can impact their employment and their reputation.

Defences to Offences of Violence and Strategy

Often self-defence or pre-emptive attack are defences advanced in these cases. A pre-emptive attack is when a defendant believes that they are going to be attacked, so throw the first punch. ABH solicitors are able to determine whether these defences can be used, as the law in relation to self-defence is quite complicated and will only succeed where a defendant has used 'reasonable force'.

It is important in ABH cases to seek free legal advice from an ABH solicitor from the outset. Any comments made in a police interview can impact not only the charging decision but also the defence case as a whole. 

Defendants that have no previous convictions could be eligible for a police caution, but there are still consequences of this depending on what they do for a living.

Challenging the medical evidence is important as the police will often charge a defendant with ABH without any supporting medical evidence   People often exaggerate injuries or even attribute other injuries to the alleged assault. It is therefore imperative that ABH solicitors obtain independent medical opinions, so this can be challenged.

Challenging this evidence at the outset can often result in a lesser charge such as common assault, which is an offence that can only be dealt with in the Magistrates Court and rarely results in a prison sentence.

In a so-called ‘big brother’ society, CCTV is almost everywhere. The quality of that CCTV varies and in assault cases, there is normally some form of CCTV evidence.  The police will form their own view of what is shown on the CCTV, but that is their opinion and a defendant needs to be able to consider this evidence in detail with their ABH solicitor and experts used where required.

Quite often in these cases, there is alcohol involved and the ABH solicitor will need to examine what was said by those making the allegation including eyewitnesses at the time and whether this differs from the statement they subsequently provide to the police.

Each case is different, but anyone arrested for an offence of ABH should immediately request free legal advice from a specialist ABH solicitor.

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