Assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)

Assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)


Legislation: Offences Against the Person Act 1861 s 47

Racially aggravated common assault: Crime and Disorder Act 1998 s 29

Definition: Where a person commits an assault against another, thereby causing ABH. Bodily harm has its ordinary meaning and includes any hurt calculated to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim: such hurt need not be permanent, but must be more than transient and trifling

Explanation: Section 47 is charged where the injuries are serious and/or where the likely sentence is viewed as being in excess of 6 months.

Mode of trial:Triable either way

Maximum sentence: 6 months (Magistrates’ Court) 5 years (Crown Court) 7 years (racially aggravated offence, in the Crown Court only)

Examples: Punches, kicks, head-butts, and the use of weapons where injuries such as a broken nose, black eyes, bruising, grazes, cuts are caused.

CPS guidance: Where the injuries exceed those that can suitably be reflected by Common Assault – namely where the injuries are serious – a charge of ABH should normally be preferred.

In determining whether or not the injuries are serious, relevant factors may include, for example, the fact that there has been significant medical intervention and/or permanent effects have resulted.  Examples may include cases where there is the need for a number of stitches (but not the superficial application of steri-strips) or a hospital procedure under anaesthetic.

Lyndon is the General Editor of Current Sentencing Practice and the Criminal Appeal Reports (Sentencing)


  1. […] The case of Hatton [1925] 2 KB 322 (although it pre-dates the Act, it will still apply) determines that a Common Assault will not, of itself, be sufficient to amount to Child Cruelty. If there was any injury however, then this would be covered (it would also amount to an offence of ABH). […]