Actual bodily harm (abh)

Actual bodily harm (abh) is a more serious or aggravated assault. It is more serious than common assault.

Actual Bodily Harm or ABH is a colloquial term for an assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm.  It is more serious than common assault. ABH was an offence developed at common law and also under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

Section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 describes the penalty. The maximum penalty is five years if found guilty on an Indictment. 

Whilst the offence may have developed at common law over a period of many years it is now clear that it is considered to be a statutory offence Courtie 1984.

There must be an assault or battery and this must be established before considering whether the victim has suffered harm.

The cases of Miller 1954 and Chan-Fook 1994 are both helpful when considering what amounts to actual bodily harm.

In Miller 1954, the term was taken to mean 'any hurt or injury calculated to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim'.

In Chan-Fook 1994, the Court of Appeal took the view that the word 'actual' means more than trivial. The word 'harm' amounts to injury and the words 'bodily harm'

However there are limits and it has been decided that the words do not extend to cover emotions such as distress, fear or panic.

The actus reus of actual bodily harm is relatively straightforward.  It requires an assault causing harm which is significant and not trivial.

The mens rea is the same as for an assault or a battery. The prosecution only needs to establish that the accused intended or was reckless about putting the victim in fear of immediate physical violence, or intended or was reckless about unlawful conduct. includes psychiatric injury. 

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