Grievous Bodily Harm

Grievous bodily harm in Queensland, what happens and what is the punishment


Grievous bodily harm, though not technically a type of assault charge under Queensland law is one of the most serious offences a person can face for causing harm and injury to another person. Grievous bodily harm in Queensland is viewed by the courts as a serious charge needing to be punished by imprisonment in almost all cases.

What is grievous bodily harm?

Grievous bodily harm is defined under section 320 of the Criminal Code (QLD) as:

Any person who unlawfully does grievous bodily harm to another is guilty of a crime

Grievous bodily harm means;

  1. the loss of a distinct part or an organ of the body; or
  2. serious disfigurement; or
  3. any bodily injury of such a nature that, if left untreated, would endanger or be likely to endanger life, or cause or be likely to cause permanent injury to health;

whether or not treatment is or could have been available.

Grievous bodily harm is not technically an assault charge but is generally treated as the assault charge above assault occasioning bodily harm. You will often hear lawyer and prosecutors refer to the charge as “GBH”.


What does the prosecutor need to prove?

 The prosecution must prove that:

  1. That the defendant committed the act that led to the charge
  2. That the defendants actions caused or substantially caused grievous bodily harm to the victim
  3. That the act was done unlawfully

“unlawfully” means not authorised, justified or excused by law.

It is important to note that assault is not a part of a grievous bodily harm offence and therefore does not require proof that an ‘assault’ occurred or that the defendant intended for the injury to occur. As a result of this a person cannot consent to a grievous bodily harm charge occurring to them.

It also does not matter that the injury could have healed by itself, or a person could have obtained medical treatment to heal the injury.


What happens in court?

What happens in court very much depends if a person is pleading guilty or not guilty.

Grievous bodily harm assault is an indictable offence. This means the charges start in the Magistrates Court but must ultimately be determined in the District Court. The process from moving to the District Court from the Magistrates Court is known as a committal. It can take 8-12 months to get from the Magistrates Court to the District Court.

If a person pleads not guilty to the charge of serious offence then a trial will take place before jury in the District Court

If a person plead guilty then the District Court judge will decide the penalty.


Can the charges be reduced or withdrawn?

It depends very much on the facts, it is possible however in certain circumstances. We have a comprehensive article on case conferencing 

In some very limited circumstances it might be able possible to refer the charge to justice mediation with the possibility of the charge being withdrawn after a successful justice mediation.


What is the punishment for grievous bodily harm?

The maximum penalty for the offence is 14 years imprisonment.

There are a number of steps that should be taken immediately after being charged that may reduce the likelihood of a term of imprisonment or reduce any imprisonment these include;

  • providing a written apology to the victim
  • character references
  • treatment for any underlying mental health issues (e.g. anger management or alcohol counselling)

The penalty depends on a number of factors including

  • the circumstances of the offence
  • The injury to the victim and how they recovered
  • The defendants criminal history

In 99% of cases before Queensland courts from 2013 to 2020 a term of imprisonment was imposed. 15% of defendants had their imprisonment fully suspended meaning they spent no time in prison, the rest served some period of time in prison. This is why an experienced criminal lawyer is so critical as 85% of people are required to serve time in prison.


Will a conviction be recorded?

When deciding whether to record a conviction to court looks at the following;

  • The nature of the offence
  • The offenders character and age
  • The impact on the offenders
    • Economic or social wellbeing; or
    • Changes of finding employment

If the punishment is a prison sentence, even wholly suspended, a conviction must be recorded and given 99% of convictions result in imprisonment then the recording of a conviction for grievous bodily harm, if the charge is not reduced or withdrawn, is an almost certainty.


What defences might exist?

A number of defences may be available to grievous bodily harm these include;

  • self defence
  • self defence of another
  • accident
  • mistake

Unlike other assault charges provocation is not a defence to a charge of grievous bodily harm

We will be able to advise you if we believe you have a defence available to you.


The police want to talk to me about a charge of grievous bodily harm

It is critical you do not talk to the police without getting legal advice first. Talking to the police without legal advice could cause massive problems and result in you having to serve time in prison.

We have an article on your right to silence and Declining a police interview


Why engage a lawyer?

Its simple, experienced criminal lawyers know the law, the judges, the prosecutors and the court process. A person without that knowledge will quickly become overwhelmed.

Every week we get calls from people who represented themselves, had a harsh penalty imposed or conviction recorded and are desperate to try and change the outcome which at that stage is almost impossible.

Grievous bodily harm is a charge where you must have a lawyer represent you in court.


What courts do you cover?

We cover all courts in South East Queensland. We are also a criminal law firm, we don’t do any other type of law so we are in the courts every day helping people with charges like this.

Just some of the courts we appear in for grievous bodily harm are;

Beaudesert Magistrates Court

Beenleigh Magistrates Court

Brisbane Magistrates Court

Caloundra Magistrates Court

Caboolture Magistrates Court

Cleveland Magistrates Court

Coolangatta Magistrates Court

Gatton Magistrates Court

Gympie Magistrates Court

Holland Park Magistrates Court

Ipswich Magistrates Court

Maroochydore Magistrates Court

Nambour Magistrates Court

Noosa Magistrates Court

Pine Rivers Magistrates Court

Richlands Magistrates Court

Redcliffe Magistrates Court

Sandgate Magistrates Court

Southport Magistrates Court

Toowoomba Magistrates Court

Wynnum Magistrates Court


What do you charge?

We charge a flat fee for our services that means no hidden charges or unexpected bills. 

Our prices for a guilty plea to a grievous boldly harm guilty plea include;

  • full preparation for court including checking for defences and devising strategy to minimise penalty
  • negotiations with the prosecution unit including obtaining criminal history and charge documents
  • drafting submissions for the court
  • all telephone calls, emails and meetings with you
  • detailed information to you on the likely penalty and information on what will happen at court and afterwards
  • appearing in the court with you to conduct your guilty plea

Email us and we will provide a fixed price quote.


How do I get more information or engage Clarity Law to act for me? 

If you want to engage us or just need further obligation free information or advice then you can either;

  1. Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone at a time that suits you
  2. Visit our website at 
  3. Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm
  4. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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