In New South Wales it is an offence to be in a group of three or more people who use or threaten to use violence. The actions of the group taken as a whole must be such that an ordinary person would fear for their safety. A person can be charged with this offence if they are one of three or more people who are acting in a way that would cause others to fear for their safety. You can be charged with the offence whether it is you that threatens to use violence or uses violence, or whether you are merely present within a group that does.
The Offence of Violent Disorder
The offence of Violent Disorder is contained in section 11A(1) of the Summary Offences Act 1988 and states:
If 3 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his or her personal safety, each of the persons using or threatening unlawful violence is guilty of an offence.
Maximum penalty: 10 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months.
What Actions Might Constitute Violent Disorder?
Examples of this offence include:
- Walking through a shopping mall with two other men who are yelling intimidating and threatening things at shoppers including, “I’m going to smash ya” and, “I’ll kill you if you don’t get out of our way!”;
- Participating in a protest that has turned violent; and
- Walking through the streets with two other friends and smashing beer bottles and shoving passers-by.
What the Police Must Prove
To convict a person of this offence the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That they were present together with two or more other people;
- The group collectively was using or threatening to use violence; and
- The group’s conduct together would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for their personal safety.
Possible Defences for Violent Disorder
A person charged with violent disorder could validly argue any of the following defences:
- That they were not part of the group;
- That there were not three or more people in the group;
- That the group was not using or threatening to use violence;
- That a person of reasonable firmness would not have feared for their personal safety;
Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?
The offence is a summary offence and can only be finalised in the Local Court.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.