Affray charge after Sydney CBD brawl

Criminal Law

A man has been charged with affray and assault and resist police following a Sydney CBD brawl on Sunday morning which allegedly involved up to 50 people.


A 32 year old man from Rhodes is appearing at Central Local Court today. Two others have also been charged. The brawl broke out in front of The Flynn nightclub on Bligh St, reportedly after one patron threw a bottle at another group of patrons inside the venue. Three police officers received minor injuries. Police say further Court Attendance Notices will be issued in the coming weeks.

Riot and affray

Riot and affray are public order offences. What distinguishes these from offences against the person such as assault is that there is no “victim” as such – rather, it is the disruption to public safety and order which is punished.

The elements of affray, therefore, are that:

  1. The accused used or threatened unlawful violence toward another person; and
  2. The conduct of the accused was such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his/her personal safety.

There is therefore no need for actual violence on the part of the accused, and no actual person needs to be present at the scene and fear for their safety. There is also no express requirement that more than one person be present threatening violence, though if there is, then the potential impact of their combined conduct upon the reasonable person is to be taken into account.

The offence of riot is in similar terms, except there is a requirement that at least 12 persons be present threatening violent conduct. Riot is more difficult to prove than affray, even in cases such as the instant one where it would appear that there were at least 12 (out of the reported 50) persons who were threatening to or using violent conduct, because in respect of the accused, it needs to be proved that 11 other persons used or threatened unlawful violence. Where the identity and exact conduct of other persons is difficult to verify, it can mean that a charge of riot will fall away completely for lack of proof. Affray more conveniently focuses on the conduct of an individual, with the option of considering the conduct of others as contributing to a common purpose of unlawful violence.

Application to the case at hand

The other two men cited in the Daily Telegraph report do not appear to have been charged with riot or affray. Depending on the charges which are laid in the near future, the individual charged with affray could potentially be charged with riot, along with others. However, this would require a significant amount of work by police. As above, the affray is comparatively easy to make out. It is possible that the assault police could be relied on as the “used unlawful violence” element, while the conduct of the accused in addition to others present created an atmosphere of fear. Alternatively, with respect to the first element, it might be proven that the accused’s conduct amounted to threatening unlawful violence.

Time will likely reveal the full story in this matter, in addition to any further charges.

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Image credit: ABC News

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