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Riot is one of several offences in NSW

Riot requires proof that 12 or more persons used or threatened violence for a common purpose

Riot is one of several offences in NSW that pertain to a breach or disturbance of public order. Affray is a similar offence that involves fewer people.

Proof of Riot

The offence of riot is defined by section 93B of the Crimes Act of 1900 (NSW). A charge of riot requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of all the following:

  • 12 or more persons were present together;
  • the persons used or threatened violence;
  • they did so for a common purpose; and
  • their conduct was of a nature that would cause a reasonably firm person to fear for his or her personal safety.

A riot can take place in either a public or a private place. It is not necessary for a reasonably firm person to be present when the riot occurs, although as a practical matter, the police are unlikely to know about the riot unless someone who isn’t involved is present and witnesses it.

The common purpose can be inferred from the joint conduct in which the persons undertake. It is not necessary for each person to engage in an act or threat of violence simultaneously, but only a person who uses or threatens violence can be convicted of riot.

Examples of Riot

The obvious example of riot occurs when 12 or more people assemble for a protest or picket line and they become involved in a violent confrontation with other people who do not share their views.

As another example, twelve friends who support a particular team might be watching a televised game at a pub. If they all start threatening fans of the opposing team, they could be accused of riot.

Defences to Riot

Each of the 12 or more persons can be convicted of riot if all the required elements are proved. However, a person charged with riot can defend on any of the following grounds, among others:

  • Mistaken identity - the accused was not present at the riot
  • Fewer than 12 people were present
  • No violent acts or threats occurred
  • Others may have threatened or indulged in violence, but not the accused
  • Each individual acted for his or her own reasons, and not for a common purpose
  • The conduct of the accused and others in the group could not have caused any reasonable person to become afraid.

 Available defences depend on the facts of the case. Any person accused of riot should promptly seek legal advice about the best defence that is available under the circumstances.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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