Public Disorder Offences (SA)
Public disorder offences are offences that interfere with the ability of society and individuals to operate efficiently. In South Australia, there are a number of public disorder offences contained in the Summary Offences Act 1953. Some more serious offences are set out in the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935. This page deals with public disorder offences in South Australia.
Public disorder offences – indictable offences
The Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 contains indictable offence relating to public disorder. Paradoxically, these offences can be committed in private as well as in public places. Indictable offences are serious offences that can be finalised in a higher court (the District Court or the Supreme Court).
In South Australia, there are minor indictable offences and major indictable offences. Minor indictable offences carry a maximum penalty of no more than five years imprisonment. These offences can be dealt with in a lower court if the defence agrees to this. All other indictable offences are major offences and can only be finalised in a higher court.
Among the most serious public disorder offences in South Australia is the offence of riot, which is governed by section 83B of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935.
Riot occurs when 12 or more people together use or threaten violence for a common purpose and their conduct would cause a person to fear for their personal safety.
Riot carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment, or 10 years imprisonment if the offence is aggravated.
The offence of affray is contained in section 83C of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935.
Affray occurs when a person threatens unlawful violence towards another person in a way that would cause a person of reasonable firmness and courage to fear for their safety.
Examples of riot and affray
The offences of riot and affray can be committed even if there is no person of reasonable firmness and courage present at the scene. They can be committed in private or in public. The violence conduct involved may be directed towards property or persons and does not have to be intended to cause injury or damage.
Examples of behaviour that would amount to violent conduct for the purposes of these offences include:
- Throwing missiles even if they do not hit anything or anyone;
- Smashing furniture
Public disorder offences – summary offences
The Summary Offences Act 1953 contains a range of public disorder offences. Summary offences are offences that can only be finalised in the lower courts and that carry a maximum penalty of no more than two years imprisonment.
Under section 6A of the Summary Offences Act 1953, violent disorder is an offence. It occurs when three or more persons use or threaten violence for a common purpose and their conduct would cause a person to fear for their personal safety. Essentially, violent disorder is the offence of riot, on a smaller scale.
Violent disorder is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to two years.
A person is guilty of an offence under section 7 of the Summary Offences Act 1953, if they:
- Behave in a disorderly or offensive manner; or
- Fight with another person; or
- Use offensive language
In a public place.
The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of $1250 or imprisonment for three months.
The Summary Offences Act 1953 also includes two trespassing offences. Section 17A makes it an offence to trespass on premises and fail to leave after being asked to do so. This is punishable by a fine of up to $5000 and imprisonment for up to six months.
Section 17AB makes it an offence to trespass at private parties and fail to leave after being asked to do so. This is punishable by a fine of up to $5000 or imprisonment for up to one year.
Under section 18 of the Summary Offences Act, police may ask a person to move on or ask a group to disperse if they are loitering in a public place and the police suspect that:
- An offence has been or in about to be committed;
- A breach of the peace has occurred or is about to occur;
- The movement of pedestrians or traffic is being obstructed;
- The safety of a person is the area is in danger.
If a person failed to leave a public place after being asked to do so, they are committing an offence and may be fiend up to $1250 or imprisonment for up to three months.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.