Specialist London Solicitors in Affray Cases
At MFI Law Limited we have the expertise in representing clients charged with affray. Our London Solicitors are available to represent clients at London Police Stations, Magistrates' and Crown Courts throughout the country.
Affray is set out within section 3 of the Public Order Act 1986 which states:
- A person is guilty of affray if he uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another and his conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.
- Where 2 or more persons use or threaten the unlawful violence, it is the conduct of them taken together that must be considered for the purposes of subsection (1).
- For the purposes of this section a threat cannot be made by the use of words alone.
- No person of reasonable firmness need actually be, or be likely to be, present at the scene.
- Affray may be committed in private as well as in public places.
- A constable may arrest without warrant anyone he reasonably suspects is committing affray.
- A person guilty of affray is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or a fine or both, or on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both.
The seriousness of the offence lies in the effect that the behaviour of the accused has on members of the public who may have been put in fear. There must be some conduct, beyond the use of words, which is threatening and directed towards a person or persons. Mere words are not enough. Violent conduct towards property alone is not sufficient for the purposes of an offence under section 3.
The offence may be committed in a public or private place. The notional bystander test is explained in the case of R v Sanchez  Crim L R 572 CA, and asserts that the hypothetical bystander, rather than the victim, must be put in fear for his or her personal safety. Apart from the hypothetical bystander, there must be present a ‘victim’ against whom the violence is to be directed see I & Others v DPP (2002) 1 AC 285 HL.
There has to be violence of such a kind that a bystander would fear for his safety. Where the violence is focused solely and exclusively on the victim, such that it would be incapable of causing a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his safety, then the offence is not made out.
The level of conduct appropriate for charges under section 3 will often fall comfortably within the ambit of that anticipated within section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986. Affray should be considered in circumstances of serious and indiscriminate violence. Examples of the type of conduct appropriate for a section 3 offence include:
- A fight between two or more people in a place where members of the general public are present (for example in a public house, discotheque, restaurant or street) with a level of violence such as would put them in substantial fear (as opposed to passing concern) for their safety (even though the fighting is not directed towards them).
- Indiscriminate throwing of objects directed towards a group of people in circumstances where serious injury is or is likely to be caused;
- The wielding of a weapon of a type or in a manner likely to cause people substantial fear for their safety or a person armed with a weapon who, when approached by police officers, brandishes the weapon and threatens to use it against them;
- Incidents within a dwelling should not be charged as affray merely because a lesser public order charge is not available. Offences of assault are likely to be more appropriate. Affray should be considered in circumstances analogous to those listed above where serious violence is used or threatened, and with due regard to the principles set out in R v Sanchez.
Sentencing guidelines for Affray
Maximum Sentence: 3 years imprisonment.