Criminal Law

Riot

It is typically considered that the purpose of the offence of "riot" is to keep public order and  to protect the community from being subjected to violence or the threat of violence when in public, particularly where there are large gatherings. An obvious example is when a group partakes in public protest. The law is in place to ensure that such protest does not get out of hand and turn violent. Despite the obvious examples of riot that come to mind, a closer examination of the law shows that the offence can cover a wide range of circumstances.

The Law

Pursuant to section 93B of the Crimes Act 1900:  

Where 12 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose 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 unlawful violence for the common purpose is guilty of riot. 

Penalties

The maximum penalty for riot is 15 years' imprisonment. If the matter is finalised in the Local Court, then the maximum penalty that can be imposed is 2 years' imprisonment.

Commentary

It is important to note that the law qualifies the above elements of the offence of riot. Most importantly, the law states that there is no requirement that a person of reasonable firmness actually needs to be present at the scene. A Court therefore needs to consider the conduct of the accused persons and the circumstances to make an assessment as to whether a person of reasonable firmness, if such was in fact present at the scene, would fear for his or her personal safety.

Another important qualification is that, contrary to popular understanding, a riot can be committed in private as well as in public. A typical example would be a group (of 12 or more people) "gate crashing" a private party and engaging in conduct that would cause people of reasonable firmness to fear for their safety.

If you have been charged with a riot offence, our experts at Prime Lawyers - Criminal Law Division can help. Contact us to make an appointment with a criminal lawyer at your nearest Prime Lawyers office.

We have criminal lawyers located at Sydney, Parramatta, Chatswood, Sutherland and Wollongong.    

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