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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Riot, Affray and violent disorder- Offences against Public Order

Recent amendment to the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 and the Summary Offences Act 1953 have introduced three new offence against the public order.
This is the most serious offence of the offences mentioned here. It is committed when 12 or more people are present together and use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose, and that the conduct of them causes a person (of reasonable firmness) present at the scene to fear their own personal safety. This offence can be committed in a public or private place. Common purpose can be inferred by conduct but the person needs to intend to use violence or is aware that their conduct may be violent. This offence involves both violence and public alarm, alarm in the sense that the conduct is currently or potentially dangerous. Violence here can include violence to property or person. [Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 s83B]
The penalty is a maximum of 7 years imprisonment for a basic offence and up to 10 years for an aggravated offence.
A person has committed the offence of affray when they use or threaten violence towards another and their conduct would cause a person (of reasonable firmness) to fear for their personal safety. This may involve more than one person and when it does the behaviour of all people should be considered when determining its effect. The threat here can not be made by words alone and must include conduct. Similarly to riot, affray can be committed in either a public or private place and the person needs to have intended to use or threaten violence or is aware that their conduct may be violent. Violence here does not include violent conduct towards property. [Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 s83C]
An example of an affray is a fight between two or more people with a level of violence that puts an innocent bystander in substantial fear (not just a passing concern) for their personal safety.
The offence can be made out even if a person of reasonable firmness is not present at the scene. This means, for example, that incidents captured on surveillance camera where no members of the public are present can still be prosecuted.
The penalty for a basic offence is a maximum of three years imprisonment and for an aggravated offence the maximum is imprisonment for five years.
Violent Disorder
This offence has been committed when three or more people present together use or threaten unlawful violence and the conduct of them taken together would cause a person (of reasonable firmness) to fear their personal safety. This offence may be committed in both private and public places. A person must intend to use or threaten violence or is aware that his or her conduct may be violent or threaten violence. The notion of violence here can include violent conduct towards property as well as a person. [Summary Offences Act 1953 s6A]
The penalty for this offence is a maximum fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for two years.


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