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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Riot Offences Riot Offences and Penalties in the Northern Territory (NT)

    Riot Offences and Penalties in the Northern Territory (NT)

    The safety of public spaces is not just preventing the proliferation of dangerous weapons and tools; it also includes preventing actions that will cause other people to fear for their lives or property.

    If an individual is convicted in a Northern Territory (NT) court for a riot offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a national police record check in the NT.

    The offence will be disclosed on a criminal history check in accordance with the Spent Convictions Scheme legislation in the NT.

    What is an unlawful assembly in the NT?

    The Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) prohibits all acts that involve three or more persons to constitute an act or event that will cause others in the vicinity to fear for their lives or property in the Northern Territory (NT).

    For such matters, the Act considers several (not all) acts that will cause a reasonable person or group to fear for their lives or be in peril. It also includes all actions that reasonably disturb the peace or stir trouble within the area or community.

    Section 63 of the Act further labels any such assembly as an unlawful gathering if it is in such a manner that provokes/Stirs the vicinity.

    The offence of professing support for an unlawful organisation

    Section 51 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) prohibits all forms of membership with any illegal organisation in NT. The Act stipulates punishments up to 2 years, especially in cases where the person;

    • Campaigns or receives funds for the organisation
    • Manages, arranges, or assists a group of three or more persons knowing that such meeting or action.

    Special matters of the Riot offences in the NT

    Subsection 2 of s63 of the Act considers it irrelevant that the gathering was lawful, and yet their conduct yielded any of the events that would cause tumult or unrest in the vicinity.

    The Act does not consider a gathering unlawful if three or more people had the common purpose of protecting a property from being desecrated. It includes where the property belongs to any of them, and another person attempts a break-in.

    Subsection 4 of the Act considers it a riot or riotous assembly where;

    • The gathering was unlawful under any of the conditions,
    • The assembly begins to act in a manner that constitutes unrest or a tumult
    • Their activities or event provokes the peace and tranquillity of the vicinity
    • Their actions caused or could cause a person to reasonably fear for their lives.

    Punishments for unlawful assembly in the Northern Territory

    Section 64 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) confirms it as a charge of unlawful assembly for any person found guilty of actions in s63 and similar actions. It is an offence that carries up to a 1 year imprisonment term.

    Punishments for riot offences

    Section 65 penalises all forms of riots and illegal participation in uncontrolled movements with up to 3 years imprisonment. The punishments do not include where a person has caused damage relating to the riots for this section.

    What are Riot related offences?

    Section 66 of the Act considers it an offence to be in a riot or perform any acts that constitute riots. It is an offence where;

    • The accused person is in a group of 12 people who are considered to be riotously assembled, and
    • The person continues to be in a group after a Police officer or authorized person orders them to disperse or fail to comply with any of the orders.

    A person found guilty of these riots, or related offences is liable to punishments of 14 years imprisonment.

    Subsection 2 of s66 also considers it an offence where a person engages in a violent act or an action that will constitute violence under reasonable circumstances.

    It is an offence that the conduct prevents a Police at the scene to order the dispersal. The group is considered a riot where 12 or more people commit any act to avoid dispersion.

    It is immaterial in court that the accused person participated in the group knowing that;

    • It involved violent action, or
    • Were reckless as to the conduct involving the violent act

    It is an offence that incurs a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment.


    Subsection 3 of the Act also states an offence where the;

    • The accused person is one of 12 people who are riotously gathered,
    • A police officer is prevented from orally ordering their immediate dispersal of the group
    • The person knowing about a proscription/ban on such gathering continues to gather people riotously.

    It is an offence that carries up to 14 years imprisonment.

    Subsection 4 of s66 states an offence where a person in a riotous group unlawfully damages property by their assembly. The Act punishes such riotous actions and assembly with imprisonment of up to 4 years.


    1. Conducts that involves a violent act in the NT

    Subsection 6 further expands on the acts that can constitute a violent action as;

    Where the conduct is capable of causing injury to a person or damage to property, it is irrelevant in court if the act causes the injury or damage to a person.

    It is also a violent act if it involves a threat to engage in such conduct. The maximum penalty for violent actions follows the stipulations for earlier subsections as a charge incurring 14 years imprisonment.


    1. Being armed in public in the NT

    It is an offence to be armed in public, especially in such a manner that causes fear and trepidation of reasonable firmness or courage. It is still an offence even if the armed person does not intend to commit a crime.

    As long as it causes a person of sound mind to fear for their lives, the court can pronounce the person guilty for an offence that incurs three years imprisonment.


    1. Challenging a person to a fight in public likely to cause severe harm or death

    Section 70 prohibits all actions where a person challenges another to a fight where;

    • Such fights/actions are likely to cause death or serious harm
    • Provokes another person to such fights
    • Causes such fight between other parties

    It is an offence that carries penalties of up to 3 years.


    1. The offence of displaying support for an unlawful organisation

    It is an offence for a person to show support or solidarity for a criminal organisation or group in the NT. It includes circumstances where the person promotes the emblem, shirts or logos of such proscribed groups that will cause a reasonable person to infer them as a member.

    Following section 52 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT), It includes cases where the accused person;

    • Dons the shirt, dress or other property
    • Displays their logo, emblem or banner
    • It is an offence that incurs a maximum penalty of about six months imprisonment.

    1. Evidence of knowledge of unlawfulness

    Section 52 requires every complainant or prosecutor to prove that the person;

    • Belonged to the organisation for 28 days, or
    • Was a member of a related board or committee that they know to be unlawful.

    1. Other offences against public order

    The Summary Offences Act 1923 (NT) contains the vast majority of summary offences in the NT against public order. It encompasses all other offences in riots and unlawful gatherings; it consists of offences in public or visible places like;

    • Shopping malls,
    • Strips,
    • Parks,
    • Clubs,
    • Event centres,
    • Conference halls,
    • Public buildings,
    • Night club strip.

    There are various charges against public order depending on;

    • the action of the accused person in public,
    • the presence of an unlawful gathering, or
    • any other circumstances that would constitute a public disorder or offence.

    1. The offence of Public disorder and behaviours

    The majority of charges in the NT court (especially on public order matters) is the charge of disorderly behaviour. Under section 47 of the Summary Offences Act 1923 (NT), various behaviours are "disorderly" in a public space.

    The charge of disorderly behaviour is also an umbrella for other charges like;

    • Riotous actions,
    • Offensive and indecent behaviours,
    • Obscene acts and language in public,
    • Actions that stir up public anger or irritation.

    Also, people erroneously think a public disorder offence can only happen in a public space or area. By legislation, it is technically possible for a person to commit such an offence on private property as long as the consequences of the actions can be heard in a public space.

    It also includes where the person engaged in the act (public disorder) in a private space but knows it can be seen or heard by people in a public space.

    Generally, the offence of public disorder carries up to 6 months imprisonment or $2,000 in fines.


    1. Other Offences of disorderly behaviours in the NT

    Various offences are associated with disorderly behaviours in public spaces. This offence is usually triggered by the area or location where the offence occurs. For example, it is a special form of disorder to exhibit such actions in;

    • Police station,
    • Disorder within or around private premises,
    • Around a house to disrupt another’s privacy.

    The Act stipulates the same fines as for those of public behaviours, i.e.

    • Six months imprisonment term, and/or
    • $2,000 in fines

    Will a Riot Offence in the NT show up on a national criminal history check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a Riot offence in the NT, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their criminal background check.

    Individuals can obtain a criminal history check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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