A parent can be charged with a criminal offence if they harm their child under certain offences, these offences are:
- An offence under Section 18 and 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (wounding and causing grievous bodily harm);
- An offence under Section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (assault occasioning actual bodily harm);
- An offence under Section 1o of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (cruelty to persons under 16).
Determining what charge will be made depends on the harm caused to the child. The Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales has produced a charging standard in order to help prosecutors to determine the appropriate offence in a case.
Common assault and Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)
The charging standard suggests that common assault is where no injury or injuries which are not serious occur. This guidance also states that “There may be exceptional cases where the injuries suffered by a victim are not serious and would usually amount to Common Assault but due to the presence of significant aggravating features (alone or in combination), they could more appropriately be charged as ABH [actual bodily harm] contrary to section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.”One such aggravating feature is whether the victim is a child. Even in such cases, however, prosecutors are required to bear in mind the charging order which states that “the definition of assault occasioning actual bodily harm requires the injury to be more than transient and trifling.”
The difference between common assault and actual bodily harm is therefore the severity of the harm caused. For example, loss or breaking of a tooth or teeth would be considered actual bodily harm, as would a broken nose, minor fractures, and temporary loss of sensory functions (i.e. loss of consciousness).
Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) and GBH with Intent
Grievous bodily harm is when someone wounds another person or inflicts grievous bodily harm on another person. For harm to be considered grievous, it must be really serious, amounting to an injury that results in permanent disability, loss of sensory function or visible disfigurement; broken or displaced limbs or bones, including fractured skull and compound fractures, injuries which cause substantial blood loss; or serious psychiatric injury.
GBH with intent is the most serious of the offences and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The offence is committed when a person unlawfully , maliciously and intentionally wounds another person or causes grievous bodily harm to another person. The difference between GBH and GBH with intent is not the severity of the harm caused, but evidence of intent, such as a repeated or planned attack, deliberate selection of a weapon to cause an injury (i.e. breaking a glass before an attack), making prior threats, or using an offensive weapon against or kicking the victim’s head.