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Home Public Order: Affray

Affray is an offence under Section 3 of the Public Order Act 1986. The Act defines the offence of affray as when a person threatens another with unlawful violence. The offence is also committed where a person acts in such a manner as to cause another person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to be in fear of his or her personal safety. Other commonly adopted definitions by virtue of case law suggest that affray may also be committed where there is an altercation between two people and it is of such seriousness/violence as to potentially put others present in danger.

Affray offence can also be committed when there are no other persons present or in private, according to the law. Affray is therefore a form of public order offence. It does not however necessarily need to be committed in public. In more recent times, the number of affray charges brought against drunk and disorderly people aboard aircrafts has multiplied significantly. One of the most common explanations we have heard relates to the need for people with nervous dispositions about travelling by air and the need for them to ‘face’ the trip with the help of alcohol.  A more valid line of defence or explanation is more likely to be considered by the court both for the purpose of conviction and affray sentencing.

If you have been arrested for affray and are being represented by our dedicated team of criminal defence solicitors in London, for instance, we will go through the available papers and prosecution material with a toothpick to find factors we can rely on to reduce the charge or the sentence. For example, in accordance with the sentencing guidelines on affray, culpability may be diminished and your level of responsibility reduced where it can be evidenced to the court that you were not responsible for planning or indeed starting the ‘incident’. Other mitigating grounds or factors include where we can establish that it is your first affray offence or that you were provoked into action and/or that you put a stop to the affray as soon as the authorities arrived the scene.

Public order offences including affray can be tried either way; which means they can be heard before either the Magistrate’s court or by indictment before the Crown Court. As such, the right level of seriousness ought to be attached to affray charges in light of the fact that a conviction may result in a custodial sentence. An affray conviction on indictment can attract up to 3 years imprisonment while a summary conviction may attract 6 months imprisonment or a fine or both. Prior to a conviction being entered against the offender, it is essential that the prosecution is able to prove the existence of the mental elements at the time of the offence. There must be proof that the defendant had intended to cause disturbance by engaging in violence acts. He or she must also have been fully aware of the likely impact of their actions on others. In other words, where there is diminished responsibility for any variety of reasons, there may be a partial ground of defence. This is because diminished responsibility, especially when it is caused by the use of alcohol, drugs or any other inebriating substance, is not accepted as a ground for exculpating culpability in entirety under English law.


Speak to one of our experience criminal defence solicitors today and let them start working on planning your defence against affray charges. We guarantee that you will receive the most competent and professional legal advice. At London’s most prominent criminal defence law network, we are vehemently against a ‘one cp fits all’ approach! Each case is different to us and that is why our services are bespoke and tailor made to fit each client’s needs and personal circumstances. What we do apply in common to all our cases however, is our extremely careful and proactive approach to case preparation, the vigour with which we defend each and every client’s case; ensuring that the trial is fair and that our client’s voice is heard above injustice or any unlawful arrest, and our network wide dedication to protecting our clients’ interests at all times.

If these are some of the qualities and skills you require in your criminal defence solicitors, why not give us a call today? You will be put through to the most appropriate member of our team of specialists depending on the nature of your call. Act fast, delay can prove very dangerous in criminal cases.


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