Charged with Grievous Bodily Harm? What You Need to Know

In Queensland, the criminal offence of grievous bodily harm (GBH) is a serious offence. There are three types of GBH in the Queensland Criminal Code:


  1. Acts intended to cause grievous bodily harm.
  2. Unlawfully causing grievous bodily harm.
  3. Dangerous operation of a vehicle causing grievous bodily harm.


If you are convicted of one of the three offences of grievous bodily harm, you will likely face a prison sentence. However, this is not necessarily true for everyone if they engage an experienced Brisbane Criminal Lawyer. The onus is on the prosecution to prove a person committed grievous bodily harm “beyond reasonable doubt”. Defences are open to a person faced with a charge of grievous bodily harm, which we discuss below.



Section 1 of the Queensland Criminal Code defines “grievous bodily harm” as:

(a) the loss of a distinct part or an organ of the body; or

(b) serious disfigurement or

(c) 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.




The most serious charge of GBH is under section 317 of the Criminal Code, being you intended to cause the person GBH. This offence has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.


The maximum penalty for the offence of unlawfully doing GBH is 14 years imprisonment. For an offence to be unlawful, it is not authorised, justified or excused by law. The prosecution does not need to prove a defendant intended to cause GBH. The prosecution doesn’t need to prove the defendant was the sole cause of the injury. The High Court in Royall v The Queen (1991) 172 CLR 378 decided a defendant’s conduct must be a significant cause or substantial cause of the injury. If the prosecution can show a defendant significantly caused or substantially caused the complainant’s injury, then this will be enough.


In Queensland, the criminal offence of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing grievous bodily harm is serious. The maximum penalty is ten years imprisonment, and it increases to 14 years imprisonment if the defendant is:

* adversely affected by an intoxicating substance or

* excessively speeding; or

* taking part in an unlawful race or unlawful speed trial.


To prove this offence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt you:

  1. Operated or in any way interfered with the operation of a motor vehicle
  2. In a place
  3. Dangerously, and
  4. Thereby caused grievous bodily harm to the complainant.




In some circumstances, a person may be charged with GBH with a circumstance of aggravation. If you are charged with a circumstance of aggravation, this means you will receive a greater penalty. Aggravating circumstances for GBH can include:

  1. You committed the offence in a public place while adversely affected by an intoxicating substance.


  1. If you were a participant in a criminal organisation and you knew, or ought reasonably to have known, the offence was being committed:


  • at the direction of a criminal organisation or a participant in a criminal organisation; or
  • in association with one or more persons who were, at the time the offence was committed, or at any time during the course of the commission of the offence, participants in a criminal organisation or
  • for the benefit of a criminal organisation.



There are various defences open to a person charged with GBH. An experienced Brisbane criminal lawyer in this area can advise you on the best defence strategy for your situation. The onus is on the prosecution to prove the offence “beyond reasonable doubt”. An accused person does not need to prove anything.

Potential defences to a charge of GBH are:



If your action causing the person GBH resulted because of an accident, you may have a defence. Suppose a defendant raises a defence of an accident. In that case, the prosecution must exclude it beyond reasonable doubt for a jury to convict the defendant.


A person may not be criminally responsible for the consequences of an act or omission they did not intend the consequences of or reasonably foresee the consequences of, and an ordinary person in their situation would not have reasonably foreseen the consequences.


If the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt:


1. The defendant intended GBH to result; or

2. The defendant reasonably foresaw the complainant suffering GBH as a possible consequence of their act or omission or

3. An ordinary person, in the position of the defendant, would have reasonably foreseen GBH as a possible consequence of their act or omission

Then, the defence of an accident would be raised.



The law says if a person does something under an honest and reasonable but mistaken belief as to the existence of any state of things, they are not criminally responsible.



Section 25 of the Criminal Code provides for a defence of extraordinary emergency. It says a person will not be criminally responsible for something done or made under such sudden or extraordinary emergency circumstances that an ordinary person possessing ordinary power of self-control could not reasonably be expected to act otherwise.






If you have one, an experienced criminal lawyer can identify the appropriate defence for your situation.



If the police charge you with GBH, you are in deep trouble. As you will have read, the consequences for you are serious. You need the experience of the Criminal Lawyers Brisbane Group in your corner fighting for you. Our criminal lawyers are highly trained and experienced in GBH.

If you or someone you know are facing a charge of GBH, contact our Brisbane Criminal Lawyers now at (07) 3153 6215 for a free no-obligation chat.

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