Legal Eagle : Understanding assault charges

August 28, 2017
Many Jamaicans are victims of assault.

Every year, thousands of Jamaicans are charged with unlawfully and maliciously causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent to do so. Grievous bodily harm is an offence created at Sections 18 to 20 of the Offences Against The Person Act, 1861. Even more Jamaicans are charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH) pursuant to Section 43 of the Act.

The differences between the two offences are that GBH means serious injuries that can severely affect the health of the complainant, that is to say, broken bones, disfigurement, among other things. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment and the trial will be in the Circuit Court.

On the other hand, ABH means injuries which are serious but would not cause permanent damage to the complainant. The penalty is a term not exceeding three years' imprisonment. For common assault, the penalty is a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year. The trial will be in the Parish Court.

Just imagine the following statement given to the police.

On Tuesday, August 1, 2017 about 1 p.m., AndrÈ was walking on King Street, Kingston, with a friend by the name of Kerry, who is well known to be Fabian's girlfriend. Fabian, who had received a telephone call at about 12:30 p.m., hurried to King Street and walked up to Kerry and AndrÈ but pointed to AndrÈ and said: "Mi ketch yuh now, hold dis" and thereafter punched AndrÈ in his face. It was also reported that after Fabian landed that terrible blow to AndrÈ's face, AndrÈ stumbled, fell and hit his head on the curb wall on the road. Fabian then shouted that "a long time me a wait fi tump yuh down. Yuh must leave mi woman alone".

AndrÈ was taken to the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery on his dislocated jaw, broken nose and injury to his head.

 

PROVING INTENT

 

Words spoken are always important. The prosecution will consider what Fabian said before and after in order to determine Fabian's intention since the prosecution must prove intent. The evidence presented must make it clear that Fabian's action was done with intent and not by accident.

In court, although Andre's evidence, which was supported by evidence given by Kerry, only mentioned one blow to the face, it was sufficiently powerful to cause serious injury to Andre's jaw, nose and to his head when he stumbled and fell on his back.

A judge, after hearing all the evidence, and in particular the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, must seriously consider what was Fabian's intention when he delivered that devastating blow to Andre's face.

In these circumstances, Fabian could be charged with unlawfully causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

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