Public Order Act 1986.

Section 3 – Affray

“Affray” is an offence covered by the Public Order Act. It is similar to the offence of “Violent Disorder” (s2 of the act) except that the offence is committed by just 1 or 2 people (Violent Disorder requires more than 3 people to commit the offence). The Public Order Act is unique in that it does not actually require a “victim” to be present at the scene where the violence is taking place. The act is only concerned with a “hypothetical” or potential victim. In other words, if you were to behave in such a way that a person would fear for their safety if they were at the scene, you would be guilty of affray, even if no one was actually there.

Unlike the offences of riot and violent disorder, “Affray” cannot be committed by using violence against property alone.

As with the offences of riot (s1), violent disorder (s2) and fear or provocation of violence (s4) most activists will not come across this offence, unless involved in some kind of riot situation. Considering the events of the last few years with student protests and other anti-cuts demonstrations and the unbelievable deterrent sentences handed down to those convicted, we felt it was important to add some information on these more serious laws.

The Law.

(1)A person is guilty of affray if he uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another and his conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.

(2)Where 2 or more persons use or threaten the unlawful violence, it is the conduct of them taken together that must be considered for the purposes of subsection (1).

(3)For the purposes of this section a threat cannot be made by the use of words alone.

(4)No person of reasonable firmness need actually be, or be likely to be, present at the scene.

(5)Affray may be committed in private as well as in public places.

(6)A constable may arrest without warrant anyone he reasonably suspects is committing affray.

(7)A person guilty of affray is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or a fine or both, or on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both.