Violent disorder and affray

Last reviewed: 07/03/2023

Violent Disorder (section 2 POA) is committed where 3 or more persons present together in public or private, use or threaten unlawful violence and that taken together could “cause a person of reasonable firmness to fear for their safety”. The person of reasonable firmness does not have to be present,

The 3 or more people involved do not need to be operating together or to have planned to behave in a particular way  with each other; they just need to be present in the same area at the time the offence is committed. This offence is often used where there is serious disruption around football matches. Opposing teams who get caught up in violent behaviour can end up in court together as it is the behaviour taken as a whole. Of course each individual needs to intend or be reckless when they use or threaten violence. 

The maximum penalty is 5 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

Sentencing starting point: This charge is usually reserved for more serious disorder  There are sentencing guidelines produced by the sentencing council which deal with the range of aggravating and mitigating factors for this and many other offences. The starting point after trial for this offence is 6 months for the least serious example of this offence. 

Affray is the equivalent offence but is charged when there are less than three people involved in the disorder and by its nature less intimidating and treated as less serious . The maximum penalty for this offence is 3 years and it is also an offence that can be committed in private as well as public.

The starting point for sentence of the least serious example of an Affray is a community sentence.