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Home Public Order: Violent Disorder

Violent disorder is defined under section 2(1) of the Public Order Act 1986. It is committed where 3 or more people gathered in the same place threaten the use of unlawful violence in a manner that will cause anyone of reasonable firmness within the vicinity to fear for their personal safety. The threat and/or act of unlawful violence do not necessarily have to take place in public, violent disorder can also be committed in private. Furthermore, the law clarifies that it is not relevant that the 3 or more people threatened or used unlawful violence at the same time or individually.

A violent disorder charge may be brought against the 3 or more people whether or not there was a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene of the threat of unlawful violence. Even where the actual threat of unlawful violence is yet to the made, a related charge of conspiracy to commit violent disorder can still be brought against a group of people where it can be confirmed that they were in agreement to commit violent disorder at some time in the future. Arranging and agreeing to meet at a certain location for the purpose of unleashing fear of unlawful violence either through conduct or words or indeed both, constitutes the statutory offence of conspiracy to commit violent disorder. Like public disorder, the criminal offence of violent disorder is triable either way. This means that it can be tried on indictment in the Crown Court or in the Magistrate’s Court.

The trial court holds significance ramifications for clients and we will advice strongly that we first and foremost go through the facts of the case with you, decide on your plea and then the court where the case should be heard. Whereas violent disorder sentencing upon conviction on indictment can be as high as a 5 year prison sentence, on summary conviction, the punishment for violent disorder is a maximum of 6 months imprisonment or fine or both. The severity of violent disorder sentencing depends on the existence of aggravating factors before the Court. In the same manner, our specialists will call particular attention to mitigating factors on your behalf; such as this being your first violent disorder offence.

Public Disorder at Sporting Events

Public disorder or violent disorder is more likely to take place in crowded environment such as a sports event. It is confirmed and a known fact that one of the most violent sporting events to visit is a football match. As such, the powers vested in the Police have increased progressively to the monitoring of football matches and other sporting events so as to arrest any development of public disorder. Other sporting events besides football matches such as horse riding events are also very attractive venues for public disorder offenders because of the psychology of the crowd. The fact that violent attacks resulting in stampede, casualties and other public disorder offences including criminal damage and vandalism among others take place at sporting events does not render these events unlawful. The highly charged and tense atmosphere at sporting events which is also common to some protests means that policing of such events is essential for public protection.

However, there is a thin line between controlling public processions and assemblies and the violation of human rights, especially with regards to the right to association and assembly. Public disorder at a sporting event is triable either way offence. The punishment may be a custodial sentence, fine or both. In some more serious cases, the custodial sentence or fine may be in combination with restrictions where the offender will be banned from attending any football match or relevant sporting event for a period of time. The sentencing for public disorder at sporting events depend on whether there are any aggravating factors such as the offender’s record, the level of the damage done or if there was any casualty as a result. If you have been charged with public disorder offence at a sporting event, we will work through the case with you and provide you with the most effective legal representation.

Our London criminal lawyers will first and foremost establish, with your help, whether or not you were part of any public or violent disorder at a sporting event; what role you played, how involved you were and whether or not you have a history of public disorder offence. This will assist significantly in the course of preparing your case for trial. In some cases, especially if your involvement was negligible, we may even be able to persuade the CPS to drop charges against you where to pursue such a case will not necessarily be in the public interest.


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