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Differences Between ABH and GBH


ABH and GBH are not everyday terms. One usually comes across these terms when one reads a transcript of a court hearing, or in matters wherein legal counseling is discussed. In order to avoid confusing one term for the other, it’s imperative to know the working definition of both terms before comparing them.

ABH or Actual Bodily Harm is different from GBH or Grievous Bodily Harm when it comes to severity. Both terminologies are used in legal action to prosecute the accused who has caused bodily harm to the complainant. In order to distinguish one from the other, it’s important to know which injuries fall under ABH first, which is the less severe among the two. ABH includes broken teeth, bruises, deep cuts or wounds, and may even extend to adverse psychological effects.

Prosecutors usually convert ABH into common assault in order to isolate the case in the magistrate’s court. The reason for this is to cut down on expenses on legal counseling. If the defendant is found guilty, he or she would have to pay a large sum amounting to several thousand dollars or subject to six months in prison, or a combination of both. ABH and common assault may further be compounded if racial assault is included in the equation. In such cases, ABH and common assault is elevated into racially aggravated assault, which can send the guilty defendant to seven years in prison and/or a very hefty fine. GBH is the more severe version of ABH.

An ABH complaint may be elevated into GBH on the basis of the extent of the injury and the level of intent of the offender. Examples of intent include the use of a weapon in a fight, premeditated assault, threats before the actual attack, a kick to the victim’s head, and shattering glass as a prelude to attack. All of these actions indicate a strong intent to cause severe bodily harm to the victim. GBH includes injuries incapacitate the victim and require lengthy treatments, such as broken ribs, broken wrists, broken arms or legs. Fractures due to physical assault caused by any part of the body or by a weapon are also categorized under GBH. Psychological trauma can also fall under GBH as defined by a counseling psychologist. Since GBH involves severe bodily or psychological harm, it has a severe penalty as well. The offending party can be put into prison for life if there is intent, and five years’ stay in prison if there is no evidence of intent.

There have been legal cases wherein a charge which could merit a GBH status was reduced to ABH because of the offender’s willingness to admit guilt or declare intent for the attack. An easier way to differentiate between ABH and GBH is by keeping in mind that injuries brought about by ABH can be alleviated by first-aid treatment, whereas GBH injuries require intensive hospitalization or even surgical operations.


1. Both ABH and GBH are legal terminologies used to ascertain the severity of injuries.

2. ABH, or Actual Bodily Harm, is lighter in severity, and the penalty for inflicting ABH is minimal as compared to GBH.

3. GBH, or Grievous Bodily Harm, is a serious charge which can send the offender to prison for life. ABH can be treated effectively with first-aid, but GBH requires intensive hospitalization, and in worst cases, surgical operations.

4. Psychological trauma can also be categorized under either ABH or GBH depending on the severity.

5. A premeditated attack which only causes ABH injuries can nevertheless be elevated to GBH because of intent. The use of a weapon, verbal or written threats before the attack can be categorized under intent.

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