Offences Against the Person Act, 1861 and Its Reforms
'It has been suggested by the Law Commission and others that section
18, 20 and 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 should be
repealed because they are unjust, ineffective, illogical and severely
defective. In addition the offences, as they are defined, are
incomprehensible to juries.'
Explain and comment on these suggestions.
In 1980 it was suggested by the Criminal Law revision Committee that
the area of law concerning the Offences Against the Person Act 1861
should be reformed. Its proposals were incorporated into the draft
code of criminal law prepared by the law Commission. The LC again
considered the matter at the beginning of the 1990's. In 1993 a report
and Criminal Law draft Bill on the issue in question was produced.
Whilst considering the reforms much emphasis was played on the wording
of the Act and its sections. The language used was updated and wording
such as seriously injured was used rather than grievous bodily harm,
whilst enabling the words 'maliciously' and 'wounding' all together.
1993 and 1998 saw the introduction of many significant reforms, which
were proposed in the Law Commission report, as previously mentioned.
The Home Office issued a draft bill based on the law commissions
report and stated the aim of the bill was not to make the law more
lenient or tougher but rather to make it clearer and easier to use.
There were many propositions made by the main were as follows,
'Clause 1, to replace section 18, intentionally causing serious
injury', instead of Grievous Bodily Harm with intent.
'Clause 2, to replace section 20, recklessly causing serious injury'
instead of GBH, in this section the imprisonment period would be
changed from a five year maximum sentence to that of seven years. This
increased maximum sentence would make it the same as a racially
aggravated punishable offence.
'Clause 3, intentionally or recklessly causing injury', to replace
section 47 which is that of Actual Bodily Harm.
However, concerning clause 3 it would be necessary to prove intention
or recklessness in relation to the injury, not merely the fact that an
assault was present.
'Clause 15, makes it clear that injury includes both physical and
Whilst clause 15 is intended to help make the sections wording clearer
it also proposes that for clause 1, (to replace section 18,
intentionally causing serious injury', instead of Grievous Bodily Harm
with intent.) offences only, harm would include the transmission of
disease (e.g. Aids), though this is likely to prove controversial.
While it is accepted that this Bill would bring much needed clarity
and consistency to this area of law, due to pressure on the
legislation timetable, it is unlikely it is unlikely to be enacted