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  • Riot Offences and Penalties in Victoria (Vic)

    Presently, the Victorian criminal law no longer includes riot offences. During the amendment of its criminal law, Victoria abolished "riot offences" and replaced them with "offences against public order".

    Offences against public order cover the aspect of violent disorder and relate to unlawful assembly. When a person faces charges for public disorder, there is a chance that the court charges them with other crimes. The Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) legislates the offences and penalties for offences against public order in Victoria.

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

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

    In this article, we will be considering the offences against public order and the penalties that come with it. Also, we will be looking at the other offences that a person might face when charged with the crime of public disorder. However, we first need to define some key terms relating to offences against public order.

    Old Offences of Rout and Riot

    Before Victoria amended its Criminal Act, there was the offence of rout and riot. Rout refers to the unlawful gathering of more than one person with the same intention of carrying out an illegal action. Anyone charged with this offence would have faced a maximum of 5 years imprisonment.

    In the case of a riot, this has to do with people gathering together with the intent of using violence to cause alarm for pursuing a common interest. If the court found a person guilty of the crime of riot, they would have faced a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

    Affray in Victoria

    Affray falls under the offences against public order. Section 195H of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) states that a person commits a crime of affray if the individual uses or threatens to carry out a violent act. To be guilty of affray, the offender's conduct must be sufficient enough to terrify any reasonable person present at the scene.

    The offence of affray is punishable by a maximum of 5 years imprisonment. However, if the offender wore a face mask while committing the offence, they may face a maximum of 7 years imprisonment. This face mask could be to hide their identity or to protect themself from crowd controlling substances.

    Violent Disorder in Victoria

    According to Section 195I of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic), violent disorder refers to when more than six individuals gather to use or threaten to use unlawful violence to achieve a common goal. In a prosecution, the court may be able to infer the common goal of the individuals as a result of their conduct.

    Furthermore, a case of violent disorder becomes more prominent if the conduct of the individuals leads to the injury of others and the damage of properties. A violent disorder does not necessarily have to be in public places; it could also be in a private space.

    Also, it is irrelevant if the individuals involved in the unlawful conduct used or threatened to use illegal violence simultaneously or at different times.

    According to the legislation regarding violent disorder, this offence is punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. However, if the offender was wearing a mask, they may face a maximum of 15 years imprisonment.

    Unlawful Assembly in Victoria

    Unlawful assembly generally refers to any gathering for the sake of committing an offence by threatening to use or through the use of open force, consequently leading to the breach of public peace.

    According to Section 320 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic), unlawful assembly is punishable by a maximum of 5 years imprisonment. However, under certain circumstances, the imprisonment term of 5 years can increase.

    For instance, if the offender had an offensive weapon when they committed the crime of unlawful assembly, they face a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. A person could also face this imprisonment term if they enabled people around to see the offensive weapon or the shape of the weapon.

    In such a case, the prosecution must prove that the offender was aware that exposing their weapon or its shape would raise apprehensions.

    Also, in a scenario where the offender assaulted the police or an officer on duty with an offensive weapon, they may face a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

    However, the prosecution must prove that the offender deliberately assaulted the police or officer. If the offence wasn't deliberate, the prosecution might have to show that the offender was reckless not to have known the victim's identity.

    Furthermore, the imprisonment term of 5 years can increase to 15 years imprisonment if:

    • The offender had a firearm or an imitation of a firearm in their possession at the time of the unlawful assembly.
    • The offender assaulted the police or an officer on duty using the firearm or the imitation of a firearm.
    • The offender deliberately assaulted the police or officer or duty, or they acted recklessly not to have known the victim's identity.
    • The defendant enabled people around to notice a firearm or the imitation of a firearm in their possession, knowing fully well that it would raise apprehensions.

    Possessing a firearm means that the gun is in the hands or body of the offender. It could also be within their reach.

    Other Offences That Often Come along with Offences against Public Order

    In the process of committing a crime of public disorder, there is a chance for a person to commit other offences. Some of these offences include possessing anything with intent to destroy property, damage to property and conspiracy.

    Intent to Destroy Property

    Under Section 199 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic), it is illegal for a person to have anything in their custody for the purpose of destroying a property that belongs to others or themself.

    Also, it is an offence for a person to damage a property that they jointly possess with someone else. This legislation stipulates that a person can be guilty of a crime if they deliberately damage property in a way that is likely to endanger the lives of others.

    Ationally, a person may be guilty of a crime if they have custody of anything that could destroy property with the hopes of getting another individual to use it. The offence of possessing anything with an intent to destroy property is punishable by a maximum of 5 years imprisonment.

    Damage to Property in Victoria

    Section 197 of the Crimes Act states that it is illegal for anyone to destroy property belonging to them or someone else unjustifiably. If found guilty of this offence, a person may face a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

    Also, according to this legislation, any individual who intentionally destroys property to endanger the lives of others is guilty of an offence. This offence carries a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison.

    Furthermore, any individual who destroys property for their gain is liable to a maximum of ten years imprisonment.

    If charged with damage to property, the defendant can claim that their conduct was unintentional. They could also argue that they did not intend to endanger the lives of others.

    In addition, this legislation specifies that any person who destroys a property by using fire could be guilty of committing the crime of arson. Committing the crime of arson in Victoria carries a maximum of 15 years imprisonment.

    Conspiracy to Commit an Offence

    In a prosecution for public disorder, a person could likely face charges for conspiracy to commit an offence. Conspiracy to commit an offence refers to an agreement between two or more persons to commit an illegal act.

    For an individual to be guilty of conspiracy, they must have agreed to carry out the illegal act. The offence of conspiracy is punishable by a maximum of 15 years imprisonment. This law is present in Section 321C of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).

    Principles of sentencing

    There are different principles that the court must consider before sentencing an offender. The first thing the court may consider before giving a sentence is proportionality. Proportionality has to do with a punishment fitting the crime committed.

    Also, the court considers parity. This principle comes into play when several people jointly commit an offence. In such a situation, the court will try to give similar punishments to all the offenders.

    The next thing that guides the way a court gives out sentencing is the principle of totality. Totality comes into play when an offender faces more than one sentence. In these cases, the entire sentence must be just and appropriate to the criminal act.

    Furthermore, the court always tries to avoid giving penalties that crush the hope of the offender leading a good life after being released from custody. However, there are situations where the court may have no other choice but to give such penalties, depending on the crime committed.

    Bottom Line

    The state of Victoria does not take the offences against public order lightly. This is because of the tendency for violent disorder or unlawful assembly to escalate into mob action.

    Consequently, this can lead to massive destruction of properties and even the loss of lives. As such, the state of Victoria has put in place different legislation to prevent people from taking the law into their own hands.

    If a person faces charges for any offence against public order, they should reach out to a lawyer. This is because they might likely end up fighting multiple charges.

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

    If an individual is found guilty of a Riot offence in Victoria, 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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