Using or threatening unlawful violence towards another such that the conduct would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.

Section 3 of the Public Order Act 1986

Maximum Penalty

Fine level 5 and 6 months’ imprisonment in the Magistrates’ Court or 3 years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine in the Crown Court.

Things to Know

This offence is an either way offence which means it can be dealt with in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. The magistrates will have to decide whether they think that the case is suitable for them to deal with otherwise they will decline jurisdiction and the matter will have to be dealt with in the Crown Court. If the magistrates accept jurisdiction to deal with the case then the Defendant can choose to take the Crown Court if he/she so wishes. There must be at least 2 people acting in a manner that either uses or threatens violence. One person alone cannot commit the affray. It need not matter that the 2 people may not intend to commit the offence together.

Threats by way of words alone will not be sufficient to make out the offence there must be at least a physical gesture of some sort that would suggest the threat of violence. It does not matter that anybody else is present. If a Court takes the view that had another person been present and that person was of reasonable firmness and that that person would have feared for his own personal safety then the offence is made out. The offence can be committed in a public or private place.

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