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What is Affray and What Can You Do If You are Charged with Affray?

Affray is a term that many people will have heard of, but few actually understand. It is an old law that was originally created to stop violent and disruptive fighting in public places. However, the law has been updated several times over the years, and now it covers any situation where two or more people fight in public and cause others to fear for their safety.

The main difference between affray and other similar laws like rioting or violent disorder is that with affray, there doesn’t need to be any other aggravating factors like racial hatred or property damage for you to be charged with it. Affray cases are usually brought as either ‘simple affray’ or ‘aggravated affray’, depending on the circumstances. If found guilty of simple affray, you could face a fine, community service sentence, or even a custodial sentence.

This article will explain everything you need to know about affray and will answer some key questions such as What is affray? What’s the difference between affray and other similar offences? What are the penalties if you are convicted of affray? And much more.


What is Affray?

Affray is a term used to describe a fight that has taken place in a public place and caused alarm or fear to other people nearby. It is a common law offence, which means that it isn’t defined in any specific law but is rather a general term used in various different types of criminal cases.

Like many other public order offences, affray has been updated over the years to keep up with changes in society and how people behave. Anyone that takes part in a public fight could be charged with affray as long as another person saw what happened and was put in fear as a result. An affray charge can also be brought against one person on their own if they instigate a fight with another person that doesn’t want to fight.


What is the Difference Between Affray and Other Public Order Offences?

Affray is one of several different criminal offences that relate to public order. Other laws that cover similar situations include violent disorder, rioting, and threatening behaviour.

The main difference between these laws is the circumstances in which they can be charged. Affray can be charged if two or more people fight in public and cause others to fear for their safety. Whereas rioting and violent disorder are charged if there are around 12 or more people involved in a violent disturbance that causes damage to property or disrupts normal life in the area.

Another important difference is that with violent disorder and rioting, there needs to be certain aggravating factors in place for the law to be applied. These include racial hatred and damage to property, whereas, with affray, there doesn’t need to be any of those.

Many people don’t understand the distinction between affray and other similar offences, so let’s look at the differences in a bit more detail.


What’s the Difference Between Rioting and Affray?

Rioting involves taking part in violent and disruptive behaviour with a group of other people in a public place. It is usually accompanied by a breach of the peace, where there are threats or violence against other people. Affray does not necessarily involve a breach of the peace and is not attached to any particular group of people.

The main difference between affray and rioting is that rioting usually involves a breach of the peace and a threat toward other people. Because of this, rioting is usually tried as a criminal offence and not as a summary offence. Affray is usually tried as a summary offence unless it is particularly serious, in which case it may be tried as a criminal offence.

what is affray


What’s the Difference Between Violent Disorder and Affray?

Violent disorder is committed when a group of people are in public with the intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress, and they then create a breach of the peace. Affray is committed when two or more people fight in public and cause others to fear for their safety.

The main difference between violent disorder and affray is that with violent disorder, there needs to be an intention to cause harassment, alarm or distress, whereas, with affray, there just needs to be fighting in public.


What’s the Difference Between Threatening Behaviour and Affray?

While both threatening and affray are related to violent public behaviour, threatening behaviour is when someone uses threatening or abusive words or behaviour towards others or damages property. Affray is when two or more people fight in public and cause others to fear for their safety.

The difference between affray and threatening behaviour is that with threatening behaviour, you are only charged with an offence if you also damage property or use abusive or threatening words towards others. With affray, there only needs to be fighting in public, regardless of whether or not there are threats or abuse used.


How Can You Be Charged with Affray?

In order for you to be charged with affray, it must first be reported to the police by one of the people nearby. A member of the public may call 999 and report that they saw two or more people fighting in public. Alternatively, a police officer may be in the area and see the fight taking place.

In these cases, they have the right to arrest anyone who is taking part in the fight and charge them with affray. You don’t have to have instigated the fight for the police to charge you with affray. If you were present during the fight and another person saw you and was put in fear as a result, you could be charged with affray.

For example, imagine that two drunk men start fighting in public. One of their friends intervenes by hitting the other person in order to stop the fight. In this scenario, both of the instigators and the intervener could be charged with affray.


What is the Difference Between Simple Affray and Aggravated Affray?

Simple affray is where two or more people fight in public and cause others to fear for their safety. Aggravated affray is when someone is seriously injured or people are seriously threatened in the fight. The main difference between the two is that with simple affray, there doesn’t need to be any serious injuries or threats of violence in order for you to be charged with it. With aggravated affray, there does need to be injuries or threats of violence so that people need medical treatment, or they need to be protected in some other way.

You could still be charged with aggravated affray even if people only have to be moved out of the way so that they are not in the direct path of the fight. There are some instances where the fighting does not need to be serious for the charge to be aggravated. For example, aggravated affray can be charged in cases where there is a fight between two women, where there are two people fighting in a public place with a weapon, or where two people are fighting, and it creates a significant public disruption.


What is the Punishment for Simple Affray

If found guilty of simple affray, you could face a fine, community service sentence, or even up to six months in jail if it’s your first offence and under certain additional circumstances. In most cases, the judge will also order you to pay a victim surcharge as well as costs associated with bringing you to trial.

The victim surcharge is a percentage of the fine that will go to fund victim services like counselling, medical care, and rehabilitation. The amount of the surcharge varies depending on the type of crime you’ve been convicted of and ranges from 10% to 25%. In addition to that, you may have to pay the prosecution’s costs, which is an amount that can vary depending on the situation.


What is the Punishment for Aggravated Affray

If found guilty of aggravated affray, you could face a fine, prison sentence of up to 3 years, or both a fine and prison time. That said, if somebody was seriously injured during the altercation, the sentence could be as high as ten years in prison. Oftentimes, the judge will also order you to pay the victim surcharge described above, which goes toward funding victim services such as counselling, rehab, and so on.

In almost all cases, when you are convicted of an aggravated affray charge, you will also need to pay the court costs as well as the fees charged by the prosecutors. These charges vary depending on the length of the trial and the amount of work involved in prosecuting the case, but they are always significant.


Preparing to Defend an Affray Charge

A defendant charged with affray should consult with a criminal defence attorney as soon as possible after being charged. The attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to have the charges reduced or dropped or to have the defendant released on bail while awaiting trial.

Defendants charged with violent disorder or affray should not discuss the charges or the facts of the case with anyone, including friends and family. Doing so may violate British contempt of court law, which can result in a fine or even imprisonment. Defendants should only discuss the case with their attorneys, who are bound by the same law.

Defendants should also consider hiring a private investigator to find witnesses that the state might have overlooked and interview them about the incident. This can provide critical evidence for the defence in court.


What is Needed to Prove Affray

When the prosecution is attempting to get a conviction for affray, they must prove that people were fighting and that the participants were aware that there was the potential for injury. The prosecution will attempt to prove this by:

Gathering Eyewitness Testimony: Eyewitness testimony can be unreliable, so you should consider whether any eyewitnesses are likely to be biased against you.

Collecting Photographs and Videos of the Fight: It’s unlikely that all the participants in the fight have been photographed or filmed. You should make sure that any photographs or videos are not your only source of evidence. You should have a strong alibi defence prepared in case the prosecution tries to use the photographs or videos against you.

Collecting Medical Reports: The prosecution will try to prove that someone was injured in the fight. You should be prepared to offer a medical report prepared by your doctor that contradicts the prosecution’s evidence.


Defending Against an Affray Charge

A successful affray defence requires you to show that you were defending yourself from a clear and imminent threat. You can only use reasonable force in these circumstances. If you used more force than was necessary, you could still be charged with affray, assault, or another crime. You could defend against an affray charge by:

Clear Alibi Evidence: If you can show that you were nowhere near the fight and didn’t know any of the participants, you will have a strong defence.

Impeccable Witness Testimony: Find witnesses who can testify that you were defending yourself, who are not related to you, and who are likely to be believed by the court.

Medical Evidence: If you were injured by someone in the fight and sought medical attention, your doctor may report your injuries. You should be prepared to produce a medical report that contradicts the prosecution’s evidence of injuries.


What To Do If You Are Charged with Affray

If you have been charged with affray, the first thing you should do is contact a lawyer and discuss the details of your case. With this information, they will be better equipped to fight your charge and help you defend yourself in court.

If you don’t have a lawyer, start looking for one immediately. If you can’t afford one, you may be eligible for a legal aid lawyer. This is where the state covers the cost of your lawyer as you fight your charge.

The sooner you begin preparing for your court case, the better. Your lawyer can help you gather and present any evidence that will help your case, such as video footage from the scene or witness testimonies.

If you are charged with affray, it’s important to take the matter seriously. Fighting the charge will likely be costly and time-consuming, but a conviction can have long-term implications for your future.



Affray is a very old law that was put in place to stop people from fighting violently in public places. It is an extremely broad law that can be used in a wide range of circumstances, from a couple of drunk people fighting in a bar to a group of football fans attacking rival fans on their way to the stadium. It can even be applied to situations where no violence actually occurs.

The main difference between affray and other similar offences like rioting or violent disorder is that with affray, there doesn’t need to be a breach of the peace or any kind of threat towards others before it is used. All that is needed is for two or more people to be fighting in public and causing others to fear for their safety.

Affray is usually charged as a summary offence in the lower courts, but it can be charged as a criminal offence in higher courts if it is deemed to be serious enough. Summary offences can be dealt with in lower courts, and a summary conviction is usually punished with a fine or community order. If a criminal conviction is received for affray, then a custodial sentence can be expected.

No matter what the circumstances are, if you have been charged with affray, then you need to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Only a lawyer can help you defend against this serious charge, which could have long-term consequences and affect your future for many years to come.


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