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Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Riot Offences Riot Offences and Penalties in Western Australia (WA)

Riot Offences and Penalties in Western Australia (WA)

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Australian National Character Check (ANCC) makes every effort to provide updated and accurate information to its customers. However due to the continuously changing nature of legislations for the Commonwealth and various States and Territories, it is inevitable that some information may not be up to date. The information on the website is general information only. The contents on the website do not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or professional advice. While we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, suitability, accuracy or availability with respect to the information.

It is a severe breach of State and public order to be found guilty of riot or participating in any violent group act. Western Australia (WA) prescribes harsh punishments for all offenders through the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA).

The Criminal Code has special definitions for a riot under WA legislation.

The police or authorised government officer must also prove that the accused person actively participated or supported the riotous movement. For this section, a riotous group may also be an unlawful assembly that has set a particular goal to cause damage.

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

Unlawful Assembly

Section 62 of the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA) defines an unlawful assembly as a gathering of 3 or more persons with a common purpose and intent. It includes all cases where the intent has an ill or malicious outcome regarding any person or property within the vicinity.

A gathering is unlawful, especially where the result leads a person to reasonably fear for their lives or property. And where such assembly provoked other groups or people within the community.

Conditions that make a gathering unlawful

It is immaterial in court if the initial purpose of the gathering was lawful, but the group assembled conducted themselves in a derogatory or provoking manner as described above.

It is not considered an unlawful assembly if the group (3 or more people) gathered to protect the house or any other property of a member from vandalism or to break in.

  1. Riot offences

Subsection 4 of s62 of the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA) lists a riot to occur when an unlawful assembly (earlier described) results in a tumultuous manner that disturbs the peace. The people are riotously assembled when their Act disturbs the community's peace and tranquillity or causes a person under reason to fear for their lives.

Penalty for an unlawful assembly in Western Australia

It is an offence to participate in an unlawful assembly either described or by any other authorised body/agency. The crime of partaking in an illegal assembly carries a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment or $12,000 in fines.

  1. Dispersing an unlawful gathering

It is legal and well stated under section 64 of the Act for a Justice, Police officer, or authorised person to verbally disperse an unlawful assembly. The participants must adhere to this Order of dispersal as stated and reasonable in the Order.

It is an offence to disregard or disobey the lawful Order to a dispersal. For such offences, subsection 2 of the Act lists penalties of three years imprisonment under an indictable hearing .

However, it is also possible that the matter is handled as a summary matter before the Magistrate court. For summary matters , it incurs a penalty of 2 years imprisonment and $24,000.

  1. Taking part in a Riot

It is an offence to participate in a riot under section 65 of the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA). The crime of participating in a riot through active or other passive means carries five years imprisonment.

If the matter is handled summarily, it simply leads to 2 years imprisonment or a fine of $24,000.

  1. Disperse Order for a riot

An assembly may qualify for the technical term of a riot if more than 12 people are assembled. A justice, Police officer or authorised government officer may order them to disperse within an hour and state so in the Order.

According to subsection 2 of the Act, it becomes a crime that the person does not disperse accordingly. It is also offensive where a person forcibly prevents an authorised person from giving the Order to disperse the riot.

If there are 12 or more people assembled in a riotous manner, they are each guilty of a crime if they know that a person forcibly prevents an authorised person from giving the dispersal order.

Continuous participation in a riot after a dispersal order or the forcible prevention of an order is an offence. The offence of remaining in a point of riot down after the dispersal order carries ten years imprisonment.

  1. Where the Rioters cause damage

It is aggravating for a riot to cause unlawful damage to property. All participants of the riots, in this case, are each guilty of the offence.

The court can impose sentencing up to 10 years imprisonment for this offence. If such destruction results from fire from the riot, it increases to 14 years.

Section 67 of the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA) provides the legal description and punishments for such offences.

  1. Being armed in a place of public entertainment

Section 68B of the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA) prohibits any form of the personal arm near a legally dimmed place as a place of public entertainment. It includes a place where any general activity is present or happens.

Any person armed in a public place without sufficient legal reason is guilty of an offence under the Act. If the matter is heard summarily under a magistrate court, it leads to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of $36,000.

  1. The person is in the company of more people

It is an aggravating circumstance to the offence if the accused person is armed and in a company. If the accused person commits it in the company of 2 or more people, they will be liable to more than five years imprisonment.

If the offence is dealt with summarily in a Magistrate the offender will get punishments of 3 years imprisonment or a fine of up to $36,000.

  1. Being armed in a manner that constitutes fear

Section 68 of the Act prohibits all forms of actions where a person is armed to cause reasonable fear.

The person is guilty of a crime that incurs seven years imprisonment. If the matter is heard summarily, and lead to sentencing of 3 years imprisonment and a fine of $36,000.

However, it can be a defence to the charge under subsection one that the accused person had lawful authority to be armed in such circumstances. For this offence, the court may likely order forfeiture of the arms or other property to the crown.

  1. Disorderly behaviour in public

Section 74A of the Act prohibits all actions that constitute a public disturbance or disorderly behaviour in a public space. Subsections 1 and 2 give special conditions for this offence as;

  • To use insulting, threatening or offensive language,
  • To act in a manner that would constitute reasonable fear or disturbance to a person.

For this section, public space can be;

  • In the sight and hearing of everyone or person around a space,
  • A Police station or lock-up station

Penalty for disorderly behaviour

It is a summary offence where a person is found guilty of disorderly behaviour in public. The offence comes with a fine of $6,000

Any person who manages a public place, including a restaurant, cafeteria or other related places;

  • Allows a person to behave in a disorderly manner
  • Will be guilty of a crime that carries the fine of $4,000

  1. Out of control gathering

The section 75A of the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA) uses the term "out-of-control" to describe a gathering of 12 or more persons, where two or more people in the gathering engage in;

  • Trespassing against a place
  • Behaving in a manner the Act describes as "disorderly in a public space."
  • Unlawfully destroys or damages or property.
  • Partakes in an obscene or indecent action that would provoke others in public
  • Unlawfully using fireworks or lighting fires.
  • Obstructing traffic or other free-flow movements
  • Getting intoxicated by liquor or other substance in a public place


  • Such gathering by the persons is likely to cause
  • Fear or alarm to any person unassociated with the gathering
  • Significant interference with the peaceful passage

Subsection 5 of the s75A of the Act describes a person as associated with a gathering if they;

  • Attend the gathering in person
  • Are in the vicinity of the gathering and are attempting to attend such a gathering.

Offences of Out-of-control gathering

It is an offence to attend or organise an out of control gathering . Where the gathering is organised in the presence, approval, or support of a legal guardian, they are also culpable. It is an offence to participate in organizing an out-of-control gathering actively.

It is an offence that incurs punishments of 12 months imprisonment and a fine of $12,000.

However, it may be a defence to the accused if they can successfully prove to the court that they took reasonable steps to prevent such gathering.

Possible Defences for Riot offences

If you are accused of committing a riot offence or other offences of unlawful association in Western Australia (WA), you should engage a lawyer to defend your case. There are some defence pleas that can help you argue your case, including;

  • You reasonably believed that the riot had no unlawful common purpose
  • There were less than 12 people in the group at the time
  • The actions would not cause a person of reasonable firmness to fear
  • The damage was a result of independent members of the group acting outside the lawful common purpose.

Will a Riot Offence show up on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check?

If an individual is found guilty of a Riot offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check.

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

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