R v Bollom [2003] EWCA Crim 2846

Whether a jury may consider a victim’s particular sensitivities and characteristics in assessing the extent of harm.


The defendant inflicted various injuries upon his partner’s seventeen month old child, including bruises and cuts. Whilst the injuries per se did not merit a charge of gross bodily harm under s. 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act, at first instance the judge directed the jury to consider the young age of the victim, resulting in the defendant being found guilty under s. 20, which the defendant subsequently appealed.


Should the particular circumstances and vulnerabilities of a victim be considered by a jury in determining whether injuries which may usually be viewed as assault or actual bodily harm could be prosecuted as a more severe offence.


The Court held on appeal that a jury should be able to take into account the unique circumstances of a victim and case in elevating a charge from ABH to GBH. The mere fact that the same injuries on a healthy adult would be less serious does not alter the fact that in determining the appropriate charge, due regard must be had for the actual harm suffered by the victim. Per Fulford J:

‘We have no doubt that in determining the gravity of these injuries, it was necessary to consider them in their real context.’ ([])

Notably however, in the instance case, the defendant’s conviction for GBH under s. 18 was lessened to a charge of ABH under s. 47 as expert medical testimony suggested that the injuries sustained by the victim likely occurred over a prolonged period of time, rather than in the course of a single event, as would be necessary for a finding of GBH.

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