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Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt And Its Legal Implications

Dec 29, 2023

Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt

Penal Code Provisions

Voluntarily causing grievous hurt is defined in Section 321 of the Penal Code as follows:

Whoever voluntarily causes hurt, if the hurt which he intends to cause or knows himself to be likely to cause is grievous hurt, and if the hurt which he causes is grievous hurt, is said “voluntarily to cause grievous hurt””.

Section 320 of the Penal Code defines “grievous hurt” as follows:

The following kinds of hurt only are designated as “grievous”:

a. emasculation;

b. death;

c. permanent privation of the sight of either eye;

d. permanent privation of the hearing of either ear;

e. privation of any member or joint;

f. destruction or permanent impairing of the powers of any member or joint;

g. permanent disfiguration of the head or face;

h. fracture or dislocation of a bone;

i. any hurt which endangers life, or which causes the sufferer to be, during the space of 20 days, in severe bodily pain, or unable to follow his ordinary pursuits;

j. penetration of the vagina or anus, as the case may be, of a person without that person’s consent, which causes severe bodily pain.

It is immediately obvious that “grievous hurt” involves forms of injury that are more serious than “hurt”. Often, the injuries that are classified under “grievous hurt” are permanent.

It must be noted that an offender must have intended to cause grievous hurt to the victim or must have known that his act is likely to cause grievous hurt. Thus, if an offender causes grievous hurt but had in fact only intended to cause hurt, and does not know that grievous hurt is likely to result, he will not be guilty of an offence of voluntarily causing grievous hurt.

This does not mean, however, that the offender is not guilty of any offence. The offender will be punished for “voluntarily causing hurt which causes grievous hurt” under Section 323A of the Penal Code, and which carries a maximum imprisonment term of 5 years.

The punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt can be found in Section 325 of the Penal Code, which provides for:

a. An imprisonment term of up to 10 years; and

b. Caning or Fine

Sentencing Guideline

In determining the appropriate sentence, the Court and criminal lawyers will look to the seriousness of the injury at the first step. This is because the seriousness of the injury caused underscores the inherent mischief targeted by Section 325 of the Penal Code. The indicative starting points are as follows:

Grievous Hurt CausedIndicative Starting Sentence
DeathAround 8 years
Multiple fractures (to the rib, elbow, and calf)3 years and 6 months

At the next step, the Court will make the appropriate adjustments to the indicative starting sentence based on an assessment of the offender’s culpability and all the circumstances of the case.

Some of the aggravating factors which might call for an uplift to the indicative starting sentence are:

a. The extent of deliberation or premeditation;

b. The manner and duration of the attack;

c. The victim’s vulnerability;

d. The use of any weapons;

e. Whether the attack was undertaken by a group;

f. Relevant antecedents on the offender’s part; and

g. Any prior intervention by the authorities.

Conversely, an offender’s mitigating factors might warrant for a downward adjustment to the indicative sentence. Commonly, mitigating factors would include the offender’s genuine remorse and early plea of guilt.



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