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Types of assault

Types of assault

SKU: 9.21
  • Advice

    The definition of assault is “inflicting intentional or reckless harm towards another individual”. There are various types of assault, these are detailed below.


    Verbal Assault

    Verbal assault is committed when: -

    • Someone intentionally or recklessly threatens you with physical harm;
    • Someone intentionally spits at you;
    • Someone gives you threatening gestures, with words / raised fist etc; and
    • Although physical harm may follow an assault, no violence needs to be used.



    In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, coughing or spitting and transmitting the virus, either recklessly or intentionally, are considered aggravating factors when sentencing offenders. A person is more likely to face prosecution for transmitting COVID-19 if they know they have it.


    Physical assault

    Physical assault can be classed by things like: -

    • Spitting;
    • Shoving;
    • Punching;
    • Slamming someone against the wall; or
    • Kicking



    This is the general term for when a physical assault is committed violently.


    Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)

    This is not just when there is actual bodily harm, this harm does not need to be serious or permanent but must be more than “trifling or transient”, but also includes situations where the victim suffers psychological harm, examples of physical harm would include such things as broken teeth or inflicting minor wounds.


    Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)

    This is not just when there is actual bodily harm, but also includes situations where the victim suffers the transmission of a disease that the assaulter knew they had. The physical element does not need to be either permanent or dangerous and may include injuries such as broken bones, inflicting an injury that causes a permanent disability, and serious injuries causing psychological damage or a substantial loss of blood. The main thrust of GBH is that the person intended to do the harm, or stand by and do nothing while the harm occurred. So even if minor harm was intended but serious injury resulted, someone could be charged with this offence.


    Causing Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) with intent

    This is the most serious of the assault offences and involves situations in which someone intended to cause very serious harm to the victim. This offence is committed when a person intentionally plans to either wound another person. Factors that may indicate the specific intent include:

    • A repeated or planned attack;
    • Deliberate selection of a weapon or adaptation of an article to cause injury, such as breaking glass before an attack;
    • Making prior threats; and
    • Using an offensive weapon against or kicking the victim’s head.

    For such a charge to succeed in court, the prosecution would need to prove that there was intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

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