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Criminal Law Explained : Section 20 GBH

Articles, Crime, Criminal Law Explained

In this “Criminal Law Explained” article we will take you through the law, the sentencing and the defence for the offence of Section 20 GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm) in England & Wales.

Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) Section 20 is an offence contained within Section 20 Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

Section 20 states:

“Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously wound or inflict any grievous bodily harm upon any other person, either with or without any weapon or instrument, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable to be kept in penal servitude”

Elements of GBH Section 20

The act: The unlawful causing of a wound or application (both directly and indirectly) of “serious harm” to another. A wound is the breaking of the skin.

The intent: The accused must intend to cause a wound or apply “some harm” or they should have foreseen their conduct is likely to result in the causing of “some harm”.

The prosecution will need to prove both elements mentioned above to secure a conviction Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) Section 20 against a Defendant.

What is the Sentence for Section 20 GBH?


  • A custodial (prison) sentence of up to 5 years  

Sentencing Guidelines for Section 20 GBH

Offence Category
Category 1
Category 2
Category 3
Starting Point
(Applicable to all offenders)
3 years’ custody
1 year 6 months’ custody
High level community order
Category Range
(Applicable to all offenders)
2 years 6 months’ – 4 years’ custody
1 – 3 years’ custody
Low level community order – 51 weeks’ custody

When will I require legal representation?

Section 20 GBH is a very serious criminal offence which usually results in a lengthy prison sentence. A person charged under Section 20 will always require legal representation as soon as they have been charged.

Things our solicitors look out for in Section 20 GBH Cases

  • Identifying weaknesses within the prosecution case;
  • Establishing whether the prosecution can place our client at the scene during the alleged offence
  • Determining whether the injuries amount to serious harm
  • Determining whether the prosecution can prove that the accused had the intent to cause a wound or apply some harm
  • Evaluating the strength of the prosecution evidence
  • Assessing the credibility of prosecution witnesses
  • Identifying potential defence witnesses

Do you require a solicitor for Section 20 GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm)?

If you have just read our quick guide to Section 20 GBH then you should have an idea by now whether you require legal representation for this offence. If you feel you do require legal advice and representation please not hesitate to contact us by calling 0345 222 9955 or by filling out our contact form.

section 20 gbh grievous bodily harm

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Our head office is located at 1 Victoria Square in Birmingham City Centre and we offer our services throughout England and Wales on a private fee-paying basis. We also have an office at 5 Chancery Lane in London and another office in central Milton Keynes. We are frequently instructed by individuals and businesses nationwide.

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Birmingham Office

1 Victoria Square
West Midlands
B1 1BD

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London Office

5 Chancery Lane

the pinnacle office

Milton Keynes Office

The Pinnacle
Midsummer Boulevard
Milton Keynes, MK9 1BP

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09:00 – 17:00
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