Bodily harm
Bodily harm is a legal term of art used in the definition of both statutory and common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 offences in Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

 and other common law jurisdictions. It is a synonym for injury
-By cause:*Traumatic injury, a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident*Other injuries from external physical causes, such as radiation injury, burn injury or frostbite*Injury from infection...

 or bodily injury and similar expressions, though it may be used with a precise and limited meaning in any given jurisdiction. The expression grievous bodily harm
Grievous bodily harm
Grievous bodily harm is a term of art used in English criminal law which has become synonymous with the offences that are created by sections 18 and 20 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861....

 first appeared in a statute in Lord Ellenborough's Act (1803).


In the Criminal Code of Canada
Criminal Code of Canada
The Criminal Code or Code criminel is a law that codifies most criminal offences and procedures in Canada. Its official long title is "An Act respecting the criminal law"...

, "bodily harm" is defined as "any hurt or injury to a person that interferes with the health or comfort of the person and that is more than merely transient or trifling in nature."

England and Wales

The expression is not defined by any statute. It currently appears in a number of offences under the Offences against the Person Act 1861
Offences Against The Person Act 1861
The Offences against the Person Act 1861 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It consolidated provisions related to offences against the person from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act...

 (ss. 18, 20, 23, 26, 28, 29, 31, 35, and 47) and in the offence of burglary
Burglary is a crime, the essence of which is illicit entry into a building for the purposes of committing an offense. Usually that offense will be theft, but most jurisdictions specify others which fall within the ambit of burglary...

 under the Theft Act 1968
Theft Act 1968
The Theft Act 1968 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It creates a number of offences against property in England and Wales.On 15 January 2007 the Fraud Act 2006 came into force, redefining most of the offences of deception.-History:...

 (s. 9). It is also used in the definition of murder
Murder in English law
Murder is an offence under the common law of England and Wales. It is considered the most serious form of homicide, in which one person kills another either intending to cause death or intending to cause serious injury .-Actus reus:The definition of the actus reus Murder is an offence under the...

 (as it appears in case law) in the guise of grievous bodily harm.

Psychiatric disorder

Non-physical or psychiatric injury can be considered "bodily harm" whether "actual" or "grievous", but there must be formal medical evidence to verify the injury.

In R v Ireland, R v Burstow, Lord Steyn said:
In modern times, the practice of statutory interpretation
Statutory interpretation
Statutory interpretation is the process by which courts interpret and apply legislation. Some amount of interpretation is always necessary when a case involves a statute. Sometimes the words of a statute have a plain and straightforward meaning. But in many cases, there is some ambiguity or...

 frequently refers to the actual intention of the draftsman as expressed in the words of the Act, but considered in the light of contemporary knowledge. R v. Chan Fook applied this approach. Hobhouse LJ. said the prosecution "chose to introduce into the case an allegation that even if Mr Martins had suffered no physical injury at all as a result of the assault upon him by the Appellant, he had nevertheless been reduced to a mental state which in itself, without more, amounted to actual bodily harm. The only evidence to which the prosecution could point in support of this allegation was the evidence of Mr Martins that he felt abused and humiliated, that he had been threatened with further violence, and that he was very frightened. There was no medical or psychiatric evidence to support the allegation. There was no evidence that he was in a state of shock at any time prior to receiving the injuries which he suffered as a result of falling from the window."

Hobhouse LJ. said:
He went on to say:
He said that juries "should not be directed that an assault which causes a hysterical and nervous condition is an assault occasioning actual bodily harm".

This was followed by the Court of Appeal
Court of Appeal of England and Wales
The Court of Appeal of England and Wales is the second most senior court in the English legal system, with only the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom above it...

 in R v Constanza, and the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 which confirmed the principle in R v Burstow, R v Ireland. Ireland caused three women to suffer psychiatric illness. Burstow's victim was fearful of personal violence and was diagnosed as suffering from a severe depressive illness. The best medical practice today accepts a link between the body and psychiatric injury, so the words "bodily harm" in sections 20 and 47 were capable of covering recognised psychiatric illnesses, such as an anxiety
Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state characterized by somatic, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. The root meaning of the word anxiety is 'to vex or trouble'; in either presence or absence of psychological stress, anxiety can create feelings of fear, worry, uneasiness,...

 or a depressive disorder, which affect the central nervous system of the body. However, to qualify, those neuroses must be more than simple states of fear, or problems in coping with everyday life, which do not amount to psychiatric illnesses.

Venereal and other communicable disease

See R v. Dica [2004] EWCA Crim 1103

The Law Commission stated its view that "the deliberate or reckless causing of disease should not be beyond the reach of the criminal law" and there is continuing debate over whether the transmission of HIV
Human immunodeficiency virus is a lentivirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome , a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive...

 is covered as grievous bodily harm or under sections 22 to 24 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

In R v Clarence, it appeared that at a time when the prisoner knew, but his wife did not know, that he was suffering from gonorhoea, he had "connection" with her; that the result was that the disease was communicated to her, and that had she been aware of the prisoner's condition she would not have submitted to the intercourse.

Lord Coleridge CJ., Pollock and Huddleston BB., Stephen, Manisty, Mathew, A L Smith, Wills and Grantham JJ., held that the conduct of the prisoner did not amount to an offence under either section 20 or section 47. Field, Hawkins, Day and Charles JJ. dissented.

Wills J. said "the facts are ... that he infected her, and that from such infection she suffered grievous bodily harm".

Hawkins J. said:
Field J. said (a footnote has been included in the body of the text, indicated by "(1)"):

See T v. DPP [2003] EWHC 266 (Admin), [2003] Crim LR 622.


See DPP v. Smith [2006] EWHC 94 (Admin)

Pain or hurt such as persisting headaches, vomiting, pains in joints, stomach aches not caused by physical trauma

Mentioned in R v. Morris (Clarence Barrington) [1998] Cr. App. R. 386

Great pain followed by tenderness and soreness for some time afterwards

This may constitute actual bodily harm
Actual bodily harm
Assault occasioning actual bodily harm is a statutory offence of aggravated assault in England and Wales, Northern Ireland, the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Hong Kong and the Solomon Islands...

, even though there is no physically discernable injury. See Reigate Justices ex p. Counsell (1984) 148 JP 193, DC
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