A charge that is common in NSW is that of affray. This article and a subsequent one will discuss what affray is in NSW law, the associated offences as well as the penalties.
It must be noted that originally the law of affray was created in order to deal with widespread unrest and disturbances that endangered public safety. However, recently affray is now becoming more common in private situations. According to the Crimes Act 1900 in Section 93c , the offence of affray is set out as: “a person who uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another and whose conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his or her personal safety is guilty of affray and liable to imprisonment for 10 years.” As noted in the Crimes Act the charge of affray does not need for a third person to be present at the scene it is simply enough for the prosecution to prove that if a person had been there they would have been afraid for their safety.
Generally, people are charged with affray if they have acted violently or threateningly around other people. A person can be charged with affray if they use or threaten to use unlawful violence towards another person. This basically means that a person can be charged if they use physical force against another person such as punching, shoving or kicking them or if they threaten to do so. But acts of violence or threats of such violence are serious enough to cause a person of reasonable firmness to be afraid for their personal safety. It is important to note that the charge of affray is closely associated with the question of degree, so the more aggressive the threats or the more serious the violence is the more likely it is that a person of reasonable firmness would be concerned for their safety.
There are a number of examples of actions that constitute the offence of affray. These include the following:
- Getting into a fight in front of one or more people
- Yelling and threatening to punch someone
- Road rage
- Violent disorder – this involves three or more people and the violent behaviour does not necessarily have to be directed toward another person or people it can be aimed at property.
- Participating in a riot – this involves a group of 12 or more people with a common purpose and whose conduct would be sufficient to cause a person of reasonable firmness to fear for their safety. Rioting is a serious offence and carries a maximum of 15 years imprisonment.
It is of the utmost importance to remember that there may be associated consequences other than the penalty imposed by the court. For example, in addition to a prison sentence an individual must remember that the associated penalties of any offence include having a criminal conviction on your record. Such a conviction can have far-reaching consequences especially on what an individual does for a living and some jobs require an individual to have no criminal convictions.
For legal advice and representation contact a criminal lawyer in Sydney.