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There are many different types of assault that a person could be charged with.

Common assault

When a person is attacked, but where there are little or no injuries as a result of the incident.

Where a person is beaten and minor injuries are caused as a result, then a charge of 'assault by beating' may be considered. The maximum penalty for either assault is six months in prison.

Actual bodily harm (ABH)

The difference between common assault and assault causing actual bodily harm relates to the extent of the victim’s injuries. If the victim requires stitches or other hospital treatment, then this could amount to ABH. The maximum penalty for ABH is five years in prison.

Grievous bodily harm (GBH)

If the injuries are long lasting, such as broken bones, then a charge of assault causing grievous bodily harm or wounding may apply. GBH is the most serious form of assault where it doesn't result in the death of a victim. The maximum penalty for GBH is five years in prison.


Affray is a public order offence where other people not directly involved in the incident may be concerned for their welfare. This often relates to disorder where there is no clear individual victim, but witnesses may have been worried as a result of what happened.

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