Violent disorder

The offence may be committed in a public or private place.

Violent disorder is an offence in England and Wales under Section 2 of the Public Order Act 1986. This is one of three related public order offences created under the Public Order Act 1986. The other offences being riot (Section 1) and affray (Section 3).

Violent disorder exists where three or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence. The conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness, present at the scene, to fear for their personal safety. Each of the persons using threatening or unlawful violence is guilty of violent disorder. It makes no difference whether or not the 3 or more people use or threaten unlawful violence at the same time. No person of reasonable firmness need actually be, or be likely to be, present at the scene.


The House of Lords in I, M and H v DPP (2001) has ruled that there must be a threat to someone who is actually present at the scene. In the case in question police arrived at a residential area in response to a telephone call and found some 40 to 50 youths in a group some 8 or 9 were carrying petrol bombs made out of petrol filled milk bottles. It was claimed that the group were members of the 'Canon Street Boys' who were intending to have a fight with the 'Barnado Boys.'


Lord Hutton was quite clear when he stated 'The present case demonstrated that a person should not be charged with the offence (the case concerned the offence of affray but the principle holds good) unless he used or threatened unlawful violence towards another person actually present at the scene …..'


Lord Hutton also indicated that giving the statutory words "threatens unlawful violence" their ordinary and natural meaning the carrying of dangerous weapons, such as petrol bombs by a group of persons could, in some circumstances, constitute the threat of violence, without those weapons being waved or brandished.


Violent disorder is a triable either way offence and carries a maximum five year prison sentence if convicted on indictment and six months prison sentence if dealt with before a Magistrates' court.



Violent Disorder

Violent disorder -

BBC News - Six sentenced after violent disorder in Raunds – BBC.



House of Lords - I and Another (A.P.) (Appellants) and Another v

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