A person found guilty of assault during public disorder is liable to imprisonment.
The offence of assault during public disorder is an offence against persons which can only be committed under certain instances provided by the law. It is more severely punished than the common or ordinary assault because of the disregard for humane conditions that should have required more compassion for another person.
Two important elements of the offence of assault during public disorder must be proven by the prosecution. The first element is that there must be an assault. The second is that it must be committed during a large-scale public disorder. These two elements must be proven by the prosecution separately. Let us briefly discuss the two elements to understand the offence better.
Assault is defined as the direct infliction of injury, force or violence upon a person. However, there can also be an assault even without physical or actual contact with the victim. A threat to commit an unlawful act against the victim or an overt act that tends to produce in the victim’s mind a danger of an imminent character upon his person already constitutes the crime.
Public disorder means a riot or other civil disturbance that poses a serious risk to public safety, whether at a single location or resulting from a series of incidents in the same or different location. (Section 4 of Crimes Act 1900) The law requires not jut public disorder; it must be during a large-scale public disorder.
Needless to say, the offence of assault must be committed during any public disorder provided by the law. The two elements must go together for the offence of assault during public disorder to be committed. Absent in any one of which will constitute any other offence but not an offence of assault during public disorder.
The offence of assault during public disorder is defined and punished under Section 59A of the Crimes Act 1900. It is considered by the law an offence against the person. The quantum of proof necessary to convict the offender is to establish his or her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The accused in this offence may allege in his defence that there was no public disorder when the assault was committed or the assault was not committed during the public disorder. This is important because if the assault is carried out during a public disorder, a higher penalty entails to the accused if convicted.
It may also be alleged that the public disorder was incidental only to the offence of assault and that there was no intention to take advantage of the situation to assault the victim. And most importantly, the accused may also set up by way of defence that he or she acted only in self-defence in assaulting the victim.
The Penalty for assault during public disorder
The maximum penalty imposed upon the convicted person of the offence of assault during public order varies depending on how and when the offence was committed. A person who assaults any person during a large-scale public disorder, although not occasioning actual bodily harm, is liable to imprisonment for 5 years. (Section 59A (1) of Crimes Act 1900).
However, if a person who assaults any person during a large-scale public disorder and by the assault occasions actual bodily harm, is liable to imprisonment for seven years. (Section 59A (2) of Crimes Act 1900) It is worth noting that the penalty provided by law for this offence is higher than the common assault. This is because the act took advantage of the situation where the victim was not able to defend himself properly.
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