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Unlawful Wounding vs Grievous Bodily Harm: What’s the Difference in Queensland?

A wounding is considered unlawful if it is not legally justified.

Unlawful wounding and grievous bodily harm are both serious criminal offences in Queensland and can result in long sentences if the perpetrator is found guilty.

However, there are some key differences between these two offences that affect the severity of potential sentencing and how you should approach your legal defence if you are charged with either offence.

Here, our experienced criminal lawyers provide an overview of both grievous bodily harm and unlawful wounding in Queensland, as well as explain the sentences each offence can carry.


What is Unlawful Wounding in QLD?

Section 323 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 states that a person who unlawfully wounds another person in Queensland commits a misdemeanour and is liable for a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment.

While the Act itself does not specifically define ‘wounding’, the case of R v Jervis defined wounding as occurring when a wound has penetrated the true skin (dermis). In other words, it is not enough for the injury to just have penetrated the cuticle or outer skin (epidermis) to carry a charge of unlawful wounding in QLD.

Injuries that can constitute wounding often involve knives, bottles or broken glasses.

A wounding is considered unlawful if it is not legally justified, for example, in a case of legitimate self-defence.

Circumstances likely to affect the severity of the imposed sentence for wounding include:

  • How serious the injury is;
  • How much preparation the offender did before committing the crime;
  • Whether the offender has a criminal history; and
  • Whether the offender pleads guilty at an early or late stage in the proceedings.


What is Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) in QLD?

Section 320 of the Criminal Code states that “Any person who unlawfully does grievous bodily harm to another is guilty of a crime, and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years.”

Grievous bodily harm is a very serious offence applying to assaults that have resulted in extensive harm to the body of a victim, often including:

  • The loss of a distinct part or an organ of the body;
  • Serious disfigurement; or
  • 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.

This means that the key difference between grievous bodily harm and unlawful wounding in QLD law is that while wounding entails puncturing the skin, GBH involves more serious damage and accordingly carries more severe sentencing guidelines.

It’s important to note that if you have been charged with causing grievous bodily harm, the prosecution does not have to prove that you had any intention to commit the offence. This means that you can be found guilty of grievous bodily harm and sentenced accordingly, even if you never intended to touch the complainant whatsoever.

Although the maximum penalty for this offence is 14 years, the court will take a number of factors into account when deciding on a penalty, including the nature of the offence and any prior criminal history.


Have You Been Charged With GBH or Unlawful Wounding in QLD?

If you have been charged with grievous bodily harm or unlawful wounding in QLD, it is important to seek legal representation immediately.

Hiring an expert criminal lawyer will greatly improve your chances of receiving a less severe penalty, and they will understand the complexities of assault cases in order to argue your case effectively.

At Guest Lawyers, our team of Brisbane criminal lawyers are licensed to practice across Australia and often travel to other states and territories to do so. If you have been charged with GBH or unlawful wounding in QLD, get in touch with our lawyers either via Guest Lawyers’ email or by calling (07) 3211 3007.

We offer initial consultations (including in prisons) to assist with a number of assault charges and act for all persons required to appear before the Magistrates and Supreme Court. We also conduct appeals in the Court of Appeal and High Court.