Serious Assaults

The spectrum of assault offences ranges from less serious assaults such as common assault to the most serious offences such as attempted murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

The spectrum was extended 2022 by the introduction of the two new assault offences of non-fatal suffocation and non-fatal strangulation.

Serious assault causing grievous bodily harm (GBH)

Serious assault offences such as causing GBH with intent carry very heavy penalties. It is vital that individuals facing serious assault charges (or charged with a serious assault offence) obtain specialist legal advice from the earliest stage possible.

GBH with intent offences may be based on evidence to show that there was some element of premeditated intent to cause serious bodily injury apparent from the defendant’s use of a weapon such as a gun, machete or a heavy blunt instrument. It can also be based on allegations that the defendant used more than reasonable force to defend themselves.

In contrast, the less serious offence of GBH without intent relates to incidents where a defendant inflicted serious harm injury but did not intend to do so.

There is often a very fine line between the two GBH offences, which will need to be carefully considered and argued by experienced lawyers.

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The importance of the defendant obtaining expert legal advice in these cases cannot be overstated given that the maximum sentence for GBH with intent is life imprisonment whereas the maximum sentence for GBH without intent is five years’ imprisonment.

Many solicitors have little experience of the most serious assault offences and may not be familiar with these types of case. We have extensive experience of successfully defending clients being investigated for (or charged with) very serious assaults, including cases involving organised crime groups and gangs.

Our experience means that we have an in-depth understanding of the issues involved in these cases and how to approach each case to achieve the best possible outcomes for our clients.

We regularly represent clients facing GBH charges who have either been found not guilty or have had their charges reduced to less serious offences.

See below for a selection of our serious assault cases.

Non-fatal suffocation and non-fatal strangulation / Racially or religiously aggravated non-fatal suffocation and non-fatal strangulation

The offences of non-fatal suffocation and non-fatal strangulation (and the racially or religiously aggravated versions) were introduced in 2022, largely in response to concerns that heavier sentences should be available to deal with some types of violence against women and girls. Although the new offences were introduced by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, they are not limited to domestic violence cases.

A statutory defence of ‘consent’ is available if the defendant can show that the injured party consented to the strangulation or suffocation. However, the defence is not available in cases where:

  • the injured party suffered serious harm as a result (of the strangulation / suffocation) and
  • the defendant either intended to cause the serious harm or was reckless as to whether serious harm would be caused.


‘Serious harm’ is widely defined. It includes GBH, wounding and ‘actual bodily harm’. In practice, it will mean that the defence is not available where the defendant’s actions caused any harm other than minor or trivial physical injuries. The defence is most likely to apply where the strangulation or suffocation occurred as part of consensual sexual activity or friendly ‘horseplay’.


Sentences for non-fatal strangulation and non-fatal suffocation offences

The offences can be tried either in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. The maximum sentence for those convicted in the Magistrates Court is 12 months imprisonment (or a fine, or both). In maximum sentence in the Crown Court is 5 years imprisonment (or a fine, or both). The maximum sentence for the aggravated offences in the Crown Court is 7 years imprisonment (or a fine, or both).

We have over 30 years’ experience of successfully defending the most serious assault cases. We provide expert legal advice and representation at every stage of a case, from pre-charge (including representation at the police station) to detailed consideration of the prosecution case and building a robust defence case post-charge.

A selection of our serious assault cases

R v B

The defendant was serving a sentence in prison, when he fell out with the victim, who was serving three life sentences for murder. The victim had boiling hot sugared water thrown over his face, causing permanent disfigurement.

R v C

The defendants were involved in large scale disorder in a prominent club in Birmingham on a busy Saturday night. One of those involved suffered life-threatening injuries, requiring 230 stitches. Another was chased and beaten with a wooden pole, rendering him unconscious.

R v R

A Birmingham gang split into two factions. The victim was the mother of a leader of one faction. As she opened her front door she was confronted by a member of the other faction and shot in the legs and arms at point blank range.

R v W

[And Others]:

We represented a defendant who, together with others, went to a relative’s house to resolve a family dispute over the sale of a dog by our client to his uncle. The uncle also attended with others. Both groups produced guns and started to shoot each other. The judge described the events like a scene out of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Our client received two gunshot wounds to his back, leaving him in a wheelchair.

R v D

Following a fire at her house, the victim was moved to a hotel room where the defendant (her nephew) was said to have poisoned and strangled her. She was then placed in a bath to make it look like suicide, but survived. The police believed the nephew also set the fire. The motive was to cover the nephew’s withdrawal of substantial amounts of cash, which he had used to purchase designer clothes for himself and his partner.

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