Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm

ABH, s. 47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861

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ABH, s. 47 - Actus reus/mens rea

"Any hurt or injury calculated to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim" - Donovan [1934]

Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (s.47)

Caused by an assault or battery which leads to further injury - mens rea refers to these, not the ABH itself.

Mens rea: intention or (Cunningham) recklessness

CPS charging standard defines difference between ABH and GBH by severity of injury:

  • Loss of/ breaking of tooth 
  • Temporary loss of sensory functions or consciousness 
  • Extensive or multiple bruising 
  • Displaced, broken nose or other minor fractures 
  • Minor (but not superficial) cuts, probably requiring medical attention (e.g. stitches)

Cutting a woman's hair is sufficient hurt or injury for an ABH - DPP v Smith [2006]

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ABH, s. 47 - Psychological harm

Psychological harm can constitute ABH, but only where it is a "medically recognised psychiatric condition"

  • Chan-Fook [1994] (stalking)
  • Constanza [1997] (stalking)
  • Ireland and Burstow [1998] (stalking)
  • Dhaliwal [2006] (domestic violence)

nb. these authoritites also apply to the definition of GBH

Expert evidence is always required to prove ABH - Morris [1998]

Dhaliwal - if the victim is only feeling a strong sense of ordinary grief, fear, anxiety etc. then this will not result in a criminal conviction. It must be more than that.

Only a medically recognised mental illness will be considered sufficient to impose criminal liability on the defendant (unless the defendant poses a threat to public order).

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