The Offence of Wounding or Causing Grievous Bodily Harm With Intent in NSW

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Information on this page was reviewed by a specialist defence lawyer before being published. Click to read more.
No smoking bar

Since 2007, all New South Wales venues have been ‘smoke free’ except for designated smoking areas, and any individual who doesn’t abide by the rules can be fined $300.

Altercation over smoking

According to reports, a  group of five men were drinking at the Concourse Bar near Wynyard in the Sydney CBD, and were asked not to smoke inside the venue.

The men are said to have taken offence to this, and the interaction with bar staff suddenly turned nasty with one man allegedly pulling out a knife and stabbing a bar employee twice, leaving the man in a critical condition.

The injured man is reported to have suffered stab wounds to his back and the side of his torso, and sustained punctured lungs.

He was struggling to breathe when paramedics arrived, but fortunately has since stabilised in hospital.

The men fled the scene, but police found three of them nearby and laid charges against a 31 year old man from Carlton for assault and affray, and a 29-year old man from Narwee for affray.

A third man, from Western Australia, has been issued a criminal infringement notice for offensive language.

The charges

The 19-year old accused of the stabbing is reported to have left his driver licence at the bar.

Police eventually tracked him down and charged him with wounding or causing grievous bodily harm with intent, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray.

Police are still looking for the fifth man.

Wounding or causing grievous bodily harm with intent

Wounding or Causing Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent is an offence under Section 33 of the Crimes Act 1900 which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You caused grievous bodily harm to another person, or you wounded another person, and
  2. You intended to do so.

‘Grievous bodily harm’ (GBH) is defined as ‘very serious harm’. It includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Any permanent or serious disfigurement,
  2. The destruction of a foetus, other than by a medical procedure, or
  3. Any grievous bodily disease.

‘Wounding’ is the breaking of both layers of the skin being the dermis and epidermis and includes a ‘split lip’.

The offence carries a ‘standard non-parole period’ of 7 years which is a reference point for the sentencing judge when deciding how long you must spend behind bars before being eligible to apply for release on parole.

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm

Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm is an offence under Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1900 which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, or 7 years where it was committed in the company of another person or persons

To prove the offence, the prosecution must establish each of the following:

  1. That you committed an act of violence towards another person, and
  2. The act caused physical injuries that were more than ‘transient or trifling’, or the act caused very serious mental harm, and
  3. The other person did not consent to the act, and
  4. Your actions were intentional or reckless.

Examples of Actual Bodily Harm include:

  • a deep scratch or lasting bruises,
  • a ‘black eye’, or
  • a psychiatric condition.


Affray is an offence under Section 93C of the Crimes Act 1900 which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. You threatened unlawful violence towards another person, and
  2. Your conduct would cause a reasonable person present at the scene to fear for their safety.

The prosecution does not need to establish that another person was actually present at the scene of the conduct.

The offence can relate to both public and private places.

It cannot be established by the use of words alone.

Legal defences to assault and affray charges

For each of the above charges, the available legal defences include:

  1. Self-defence
  2. Duress, and
  3. Necessity

In the event that evidence is raised of any of these defences, the prosecution must then prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defence is not available under the law.

If the prosecution is unable to do this, you must be found not guilty of the charges.

Going to court for assault charges?

If you have been accused of an assault charge and are going to court, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on (02) 9261 8881 to arrange a free first appointment with a criminal defence lawyers who is vastly experienced in representing clients for these types of cases, and has an exceptional track record in having assault charges dropped at an early stage in the proceedings, or achieving not guilty verdicts in the event they proceed to a defended hearing or jury trial.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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