Criminal Law: Threat of violence (Affray).

With the increase of alcohol related violence, there is a need for people to be educated that their actions, even though they may not be carried out, carry a legal penalty.

The threat of violence is one such act which carries a legal penalty that many may not be aware of. This act is called Affray.  Affray involves the use of a threat of unlawful violence. A person (or more) who threatens violence without intending to use it may be guilty of the offence as long as the conduct was such that caused a reasonable person to fear for their safety. This offence may be committed in private as well as in public places. The offence of Affray carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment – hence, it is a serious charge.

One such case before the NSW Supreme Court led to three young men being charged with Affray. The facts of the case are below:

A group of friends organised a house party in Port Macquarie. At this house party there was upwards of twenty youths. The youths that were gathered at the house were consuming large amounts of alcohol. After a short period of time, the youths became involved in ugly scenes where they began damaging neighbouring properties. One of the neighbours confronted the youths to attempt to calm them down and defuse the situation. The youths further damaged the neighbour’s property and then proceeded to flee from the scene.

The neighbour who confronted the youths, rallied his brothers and another friend to find the youths who were responsible for the damage to his property. The neighbour, his two brothers and a friend all got into a car with bats and crowbars. A short time after beginning their search the neighbour and his group found the culprits. They got out of the car with their weapons and threatened violence and started to intimidate the youths. One of the brothers assaulted one of the youths with a crow bar. The neighbour and his group then fled the scene, once they returned home they called the police saying that there was an incident. The neighbour and his group were arrested.

The neighbour, one of his brothers and the friend were charged with affray. The Magistrate stated:

The affray offences were serious, involving a significant interference with public order and a high level of actual or threatened violence.

Due to the group converging upon the youths with ‘weapons’ and threatening violence, they were charged with affray. The court ordered the three offenders to enter into a bond under s 9 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act to be of good behaviour for a period of two years to date from the date of sentencing. This resulted in criminal convictions being recorded on the offenders’ records.