R v Wilson [1984] AC 242

Whether force can be indirectly, as well as directly, applied to satisfy the meaning of ‘inflict’ for a s. 20 charge of grievous bodily harm, and whether an initial assault must first be established.


The defendant nearly hit a pedestrian, the victim, with their vehicle and an altercation between the two subsequently ensued. The argument became heated and the defendant subsequently punched the victim.


Could a charge of GBH be brought under s. 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act where an initial assault has not been established. Moreover, was it correct that a jury, when considering the verdict for a person primarily charged with GBH under s. 20, could instead return a guilty verdict for the lesser charge of actual bodily harm under s. 47.


The Court found that both ABH and GBH charges could successfully be brought under such circumstances, as both charges implied a claim of assault causing actual bodily harm. Here, Lord Roskill, delivering the leading judgment, cited with approval the earlier case of R v Salisbury [1976] VR 452, noting:

‘grievous bodily harm may be inflicted, contrary to [section 20], either where the accused has directly and violently 'inflicted' it by assaulting the victim, or where the accused has 'inflicted' it by doing something, intentionally, which, though it is not itself a direct application of force to the body of the victim, it does directly result in force being directly applied violently to the body of the victim so that he suffers grievous bodily harm’ ([251]).

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