A2 - Law - Section 20 of OAPA 1861 - GBH

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  • Created by: jkav
  • Created on: 26-05-16 17:23

Section 20 of OAPA 1861

Section 20 of OAPA 1861 states; 'Whosover shall unlawfully and maliciously wound or inflict any grievous bodily harm upon any person, either with or without any weapon or instrument, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable ... to imprisonment for not more than 5 years.'

Section 20 is a more grave offence than s47, despite the fact that the maximum sentence for both offences is five years. The offence is triable either way.

Actus reus 

The offence can be committed in either of two ways; unlawful wounding, or unlawful infliction of grievous bodily harm.

The defendant is charged with wunding r grievous bodily harm. If the wound has also inlicted grievous bodily hamr, then the prosecution must choose from the two offences, depending on which reflects the true nature of the assault


A wound takes place when both layers of the skin are broken and there is a usually blood loss. In JCC v Eisenhower (1994) the victim was hit in the eye with a pellet fired from an air pistol. He suffered reptured blood vessels in his eye but the court held that there must be 'a break in the continuity of the skin' to constitute a wound for the purposes of s20 and internal bleeding was not sufficient. Screatches, abrasions and burns will not be considered wounds.(unless the second leyer of skin is broken) and nor will broken bones and internal ruptures. The definition of 'skin' includes the inner lining of cheeks and lips. This definition leads to te strange concusion that a pin ***** to the skin that draws blood can be classed as a wound.

Grievous bodily harm

A minor wound might be charged as a s20 offence but any other bodily harm under s20 must be 'grievous'. In DPP v Smith (1961) the House of Lords ruled that 'grievous' means no more and no less than 'really serious'. In saunders (1985) it was held that 'serious harm' would suffice bodily harm provided tat it is sufficiently seriosu (Burstow (1997)). Examples of serious injury include: broken bones, injuries requiring lengthy medical treatment, and injuries causing a substantial loss of blood or permanent disability or disfigurement.

Bollom (2004) ruled that the victim being elderly or a child is relevant to the grievousness…


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