Public Order Offences NSW
As defined by section 93C of the Crimes Act, the offence of affray requires proof that the accused:
- used or threatened unlawful violence toward another, and
- engaged in conduct that would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his or her personal safety.
Affray can be committed in a public or private place. It is not required that a person of reasonable firmness was actually present at the scene.
A threat of violence cannot be made by words alone. If two or more persons are acting together, their conduct taken together can be used to prove the crime.
The maximum sentence for the offence of affray is 10 years.
The offence of riot, as defined by section 93B of the Crimes Act, requires proof that 12 or more people together in the same place committed the elements of affray. The 12 persons need not have used unlawful violence simultaneously, but no person can be convicted of the offence unless that person used or threatened unlawful violence.
The maximum sentence for the offence of riot is 15 years.
Violent disorder, as defined by section 11A of the Summary Offenses Act, requires proof that 3 or more who were present together used or threatened unlawful violence and their conduct, taken together, would cause a person of reasonable firmness to fear for his or her safety. The offence differs from affray because it can be committed by words alone.
The punishment for the offence of violent disorder is a fine or a maximum sentence of 6 months.
Offensive Conduct and Offensive Language
An accused violates section 4 of the Summary Offences Act by:
- conducting himself or herself in an offensive manner
- in or near a public place or a school.
The law does not define the conduct that a court might deem “offensive” but it does provide that language alone does not constitute the offence. The accused has a defence if his or her conduct was reasonable under the circumstances. Offensive conduct can be punished by a fine or a maximum sentence of 6 months.
Offensive language, prohibited by section 4A, is committed by using offensive language in a public place or near a school. That offence can be punished by a fine or community service.
An accused violates section 5 of the Summary Offences Act by wilfully or obscenely exposing his or her person within view of a public place or school. The offense can be punished by a fine or a maximum sentence of 6 months.
Other public disorder offences in NSW include:
- Damaging or desecrating protected places
- Conveying false information that a person or property is in danger
- Leaving or sending an article with intent to cause alarm
- Contaminating goods
- Starting a brushfire