Within the English legal system there are a variety of categories of assault: one of the more serious is classed in legal terms as "Grievous Bodily Harm". Lesser charges include actual bodily harm and assault, although charges are often combined.

To be convicted of an assault occasioning GBH it would be expected that the victim suffered "serious" injury: that is, something which drew blood or resulted in broken bones, although the Law leaves something to a judge or magistrate's discretion.

An important test case occurred in 1994 when a man who had been stalking a woman was convicted of GBH due to the mental distress he'd caused her. Until that case there was no provision in English Law for mental injury to fall under the same jurisdictions as bodily injury.