Causing Grievous Bodily Harm

Even a single punch can cause grievous bodily harm. The consequence of being convicted of grievous bodily harm in Queensland means the charge will be dealt with in a District Court and there is a 65% likelihood of being sent to prison. The maximum penalty is 14 years.

Above: Grievous Bodily Harm. Sentences from Nov 2014 to Oct 2021

In New South Wales, the consequences for committing acts intended to cause grievous bodily harm vary significantly depending on the severity of the criminal offence. While causing grievous bodily harm may be adjudicated in the Local Court, the more serious charge of causing it with intent demands adjudication in the District Court.

Contrasting with Queensland, where punishments are somewhat less severe, with a 43% likelihood of imprisonment for causing grievous bodily harm, the statistics in New South Wales underscore the gravity of the offence. A staggering 94% of individuals charged with the more serious version find themselves imprisoned.

These stark statistics serve as a compelling reminder of the imperative to approach allegations of this nature with utmost caution and diligence.

Above: Acts intended to cause GBH and other malicious acts. Sentences from Nov 2014 to Oct 2021


The case of R v Brand [2006] QCA 525 indicated that the sentence to be imposed is largely affected by the nature of the assault, with circumstances such as the use of a weapon or the duration of the assault being significant matters.  Other matters to be evaluated are the nature of the bodily injury, whether the offender has a prior record of such offending and the ongoing effect of the injuries.  That final matter is often, in my view, neglected by lawyers preparing a plea in mitigation and they leave it to the victim to peruse as an Application for Victims of Crime Compensation.  But, properly compensating a victim of GBH can have a powerful effect on the appropriate sentence – even allowing an accused to avoid imprisonment.  A case in which I was involved known as The Queen v Duncan John Etwell, (unreported decision of Judge Dearden, delivered Rockhampton District Court, 6th October 2015 is a perfect example of this.  The judge even mentioned that the compensation structure and payments made were “..beyond what these courts see in 99.9 per cent of matters.”

Often offending of this type is linked to a brawl.  Where that happens, the offenders are likely in both States are likely to face the far more serious offence of committing acts intended to cause grievous bodily harm.  If this occurs, the focus must be on defeating the charge, and the starting point there is establishing whether the prosecution can demonstrate that the offenders all held the intent to cause grievous bodily harm to the alleged victim of the brawl.  This isn’t easy.  In a case in which I was involved named Police v Bronson Israel Buggy & Ben Colin Buggy (unreported decision Magistrate Callaghan, Gympie Magistrates Court, 31st March 2022) two boys were charged with their father of committing acts intended to cause GBH.  The evidence, though, did not show that when they attended the brawl with their father, they wanted to cause the same injuries he did to the alleged victim.  Accordingly, their charges had to be downgraded to the less serious one of simply causing GBH.   That change, then allowed them to get bail after months of sitting in prison on remand.


You must seek legal advice if you’ve been accused/charged with an offence relating to Assault and grievous bodily harm.

Contact Criminal Defence Attorney Michael McMillan for assistance and legal advice on (07) 5619 6860 or 0409 273 430.