Riot is a statutory offence in England and Wales. It is created by section 1(1) of the Public Order Act 1986. Sections 1(1) to (5) of that Act read:
- (1) Where 12 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety, each of the persons using unlawful violence for the common purpose is guilty of riot.
- (2) It is immaterial whether or not the 12 or more use or threaten unlawful violence simultaneously.
- (3) The common purpose may be inferred from conduct.
- (4) No person of reasonable firmness need actually be, or be likely to be, present at the scene.
- (5) Riot may be committed in private as well as in public places.
A single person can be liable for an offence of riot when they use violence, provided that it is shown there were at least twelve present using or threatening unlawful violence.
This word is defined by section 8. The violence can be against the person or against property.
The mens rea is defined by section 6(1).
Restriction on institution of proceedings
See section 7(1)
See R v Tyler and others, 96 Cr App R 332, Crim LR 60, CA.
Mode of trial and sentence
Riot is an indictable-only offence. A person convicted of riot is liable to imprisonment for any term not exceeding ten years, or to a fine, or to both.
See the following cases:
- R v Luttman Crim LR 127, CA
- R v Pilgrim, 5 Cr App R (S) 140, CA
- R v Keys, 84 Cr App R 204, 8 Cr App R (S) 444, Crim LR 207, CA
- R v Cooke, 9 Cr App R (S) 116, CA
Association football matches
In the case of riot connected to football hooliganism, the offender may be banned from football grounds for a set or indeterminate period of time and may be required to surrender their passport to the police for a period of time in the event of a club or international match, or international tournament, connected with the offence. This prevents travelling to the match or tournament in question. (The measures were brought in by the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 after rioting of England fans at Euro 2000.)
Compensation for riot damage
See the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 and section 235 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995..
See section 10 of the Public Order Act 1986 for the construction of "riot" and cognate expressions in other instruments.
Common law offence
The common law offence of riot was abolished for England and Wales on 1 April 1987.
In the past, the Riot Act had to be read by an official - with the wording exactly correct - before violent policing action could take place. If the group did not disperse after the Act was read, lethal force could legally be used against the crowd. See also the Black Act.
Section 515 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 formerly made provision for compensation for riot damage.
Famous quotes containing the word riot:
“The bowl will ensnare and enchant
men who crouch by the hearth
till they want
but the riot of stars in the night;
those who dwell far inland
will seek ships.”
—Hilda Doolittle (18861961)
“So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, I am innocent of this mans blood; see to it yourselves.”
—Bible: New Testament, Matthew 27:24.